State-owned Social Security System (SSS) said the number of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) members increased as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy.

In a statement, Aurora C. Ignacio, SSS president and chief executive officer, said the pension fund’s OFW membership reached 1.34 million individuals in May 2021, up 11.5 percent compared with the same period last year.

Ignacio said economic concerns worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed more Filipinos to seek overseas employment to support their family.

“Our modern-day heroes are not only hardworking breadwinners for their family but are also huge contributors to the Philippine economy, thanks to their remittances,” Igancio said.

“OFWs should receive sufficient safety nets, especially in times of contingencies in the form of social security benefits, loan privileges, and other savings schemes to ensure that their hard-earned income can turn into gainful investment in the long run,” she added.

SSS started OFW coverage under voluntary membership in 1995, but this was changed to mandatory coverage for land-based and sea-based OFWs who are not more than 60 years old under Republic Act (RA) 8042, also known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

Subsequent amendments for OFW coverage were made in 2010 under RA 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, and in 2018 under Republic Act 11199 or the Social Security Act.

Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there were 2.2 million OFWs as of April to September 2019.

“We have to work extensively to cover the remaining 860,000 OFWs by enhancing stronger partnership with our government partners like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and interest groups,” Ignacio said.

“Uncertainties may arise while working overseas and this is why we emphasize the importance of financial security and stability, especially when OFWs decide to retire and return to the Philippines,” she added.

Maintaining an SSS membership is a good start and paying their contributions regularly is a huge step to ensure that they can maximize the benefits and privileges when the need arises, Ignacio explained.

SSS offers seven benefits for OFWs—sickness, maternity, disability, unemployment, retirement, funeral, and death. They are also entitled to apply for various loan programs such as salary, calamity, educational, housing improvement, and pension loan.

Source: Manila Bulletin (