Worker insurance on the agenda

Most construction workers are building up Yangon without any personal insurance, as insurers say they must do more to spread knowledge of their services.

Construction is a notoriously risky industry to work in, but even long-time labourers say they usually have no protection in the case of accidents.

“I’ve been working in construction for ages,” said labourer Ko Htin Aung Thwin. “But I know very little about insurance.”

He said he understands insurance pays money in the event of a workplace accident, but is not aware of how to get coverage unless his employer chooses to do so. Still, Ko Htin Aung Thwin said insurance would likely be helpful.

“If we have insurance, we don’t need to worry for our family’s future,” he said.

Yet it is not only workers who claim limited knowledge of insurance. Several developers told The Myanmar Times they have only passing familiarity with the concept, though some have since looked into buying insurance for their labourers.

U Hla Maung Shwe, owner of Pyae Phyo Kyaw Construction, said he had previously not bought insurance for his workers as he did not understand it, until he researched it and decided insurance was worth the investment.

Providing insurance makes for a happier workforce, as they have peace of mind that they will be looked after if they are injured on the job.

“If employers buy insurance for their workers, they will take their work seriously,” he said.

While most international-class developers buy insurance as a matter of course, smaller firms often do not.

Workers tend to float between different small-scale developers, finding temporary employment for a specific project. This makes it difficult to arrange insurance for workers, especially when there is high employee turnover.

For those who do purchase insurance, the most common plan for construction workers is a group plan costing K5000 per worker a year, with a payment of K500,000 in the event of death, and different amounts for other injuries. Terms can range significantly between one month and 45 years, with premium payments to match, according to industry sources.

While group insurance requires a minimum of five members in a plan, there is also personal insurance available, which can last between one and five years.

A 2013 move to end Myanma Insurance’s monopoly and allow private companies into the sector has also improved knowledge on the issue, as private insurers look to attract customers. U Hla Maung Shwe said a private insurance company assisted him with explaining the benefits of insurance, after which he purchased their products.

Ayeyar Myanmar Insurance official U Than Zaw said it is important to explain the different types of insurance, such as the different types of life insurance, when signing up customers.

Firms can for instance offer term and permanent insurance, with different sets of criteria for groups, endowment or snake-bite insurance.

Myanma Insurance sends its representatives around to different construction companies to explain the benefits of having insurance, said U Saw Sein Lin, assistant manager from Myanma Insurance.

There are different premiums for different classifications of risk type for personal insurance, but the schemes are “being implemented widely”, he said. “The new [private] insurance companies are also implementing it enthusiastically.”

“But some employers stint on paying money and don’t want to buy insurance, while others don’t know about insurance,” he said.

While there are a number of private insurance companies now selling products, the services they offer and the premiums they charge are restricted by the Insurance Business Supervisory Board.


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