WP4: Social rights portability

Migrant workers and social rights access and portability in South Africa and the region

Are non-citizens entitled to access to social protection in South Africa and throughout the SADC region? This question remains debatable in South Africa. Migrants within southern Africa are moving between countries where social protection systems are minimal, or non-existent. This work package explores the social benefits available to, and accessed by foreign workers. Within a context of increased labour migration and regional integration, could portable social benefits for migrants provide better mechanisms for social protection?

Some of the guiding questions in WP4 included: What role do migrants' organised informal networks play in social protection? Are there limitations on foreign workers' access to state and private sector forms of social protection? What role could corporations play in developing systems of portable social security rights? Can the SADC facilitate forms of social protection in labour exporting countries?

This study incorporated research completed under WP1 The state of labour, migration and economic development policies between South Africa and its SADC partners, and WP3 Sectoral case studies on low and high skilled labour migration. The four elements that were covered in the research, policy analysis, and writing included:

  1. Informal social protection among migrants and the implications for government social protection schemes (with a focus on South Africa);
  2. Discrimination in law and practice in access to social protection and social services between categories of migrants, and policy recommendations to address this (with an emphasis on South Africa);
  3. Portability of social security benefits: immediate issues and longer term objectives (a focus on both South Africa and its neighbouring countries); and 
  4. Proposals for the development of a SADC policy that ensures migrant worker access to social protection, with a continuum of care across borders and harmonisation of social security schemes.


See also publications from WP 1