PORTABILITY OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND HEALTH CARE BENEFITS IN ITALY

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1 PORTABILITY OF SOCIAL SECURITY AND HEALTH CARE BENEFITS IN ITALY Johanna Avato Human Development Network Social Protection and Labor The World Bank Background study March 2008 The Italian Social Security System and Migration Italy currently hosts about 2.8 million immigrants (2006) and even more Italians are living abroad (3.3 million in 2000). Legislation on the provisions of social security benefits on the international level is therefore an important matter. Italy has arrangements with various countries in this context which define the extent to which nationals from these countries, or going to these countries, are entitled to social security. There are roughly three different categories: the countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) 1, countries having concluded a reciprocal social security agreement (SSA) with Italy and all other countries. The provisions made for these groups touch upon the coverage of benefits for migrants coming and leaving Italy, and thus, define what benefits can be claimed by whom. 1 The European Economic Area (EEA) is made up of all European Union countries - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The UK is also part of the EEA. UK means England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but not the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. Gibraltar is treated as another EEA country by the UK. Other EEA countries treat Gibraltar as part of the UK. Switzerland is not a member of the EEA, but as the result of an agreement with the EU that came into force on 1 June 2002, the majority of EU rules on social security also cover Switzerland. However, EU rules do not apply to Swiss nationals going to or coming from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway or nationals of these countries who are going to or who are coming from Switzerland.

2 The Italian social security system covers roughly the following fields. Health care is provided by the National Health System (NHS) to all people legally residing in Italy. Means-tested maternity benefits and cash benefits can also be claimed in the context of health care benefits. Further, the system provides several kinds of disability benefits covering citizens and workers, and unemployment insurance to those who have contributed a minimum of 52 weeks. Additionally, all employees and self-employed are compulsorily insured against work accidents and occupational deceases. There are several kinds of old-age and survivor benefits. The old-age pension is contribution based (20 years minimum) and usually starts at the age of 65 (60 for women). People who have contributed for more than 38 years additionally receive the seniority pension. Pensioners are ensured a minimum of Euro per month in case their qualifying years of contribution do not provide sufficient resources. Finally, family allowances are paid to eligible candidates. The main Institution handling social security benefits is the Institute of Social Security Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale (INPS). In Italy social insurance is compulsory for employed and self-employed workers. All immigrant workers are entitled to an equal treatment both as regards social insurance deductions and as concerns their right to obtain allowances, and social security benefits. This also extends to their family members as Italy has a strong legislation for family reunion (these provisions are stipulated in the Immigration Consolidation Act 1998 and amending Bill 189 of 2002). Portability of Benefits The portability of benefits accrued in Italy basically depends on whether they are contribution- or non-contribution based. This means that contribution-based benefits, which are essentially long-term benefits such as pension, disability and survivor benefits, can be paid to recipients outside of Italy. 2 Within the EU the matter of social security benefits for people moving within the member states is treated by regulation EEC No 1408/71 and 574/72. These also apply to all other EEA countries. On the non-eu level 2 The only unclear issue in this respect is the exportability of the statutory minimum pension which can only be exported to countries with a reciprocal social security agreement (SSA) with Italy after a minimum of 10 years of contribution in Italy. Within the EU or EEA it is not portable

3 regulations are defined by bilateral SSAs that Italy has signed with other countries or depend solely on domestic legislation. EU regulations ensure that people migrating within the Union do not suffer from discrimination and enjoy equal treatment. This is also granted for most countries that Italy has signed an SSA with. The main advantages are that migrants can aggregate their contribution periods (totalization) to establish eligibility and amount of their pensions, and receive a pro-rata payment by each country involved. This also includes multiple aggregations where countries are linked by international conventions (or EU regulations). Usually, the legislation of the country of employment is applicable and the place of residence is not taken into considerations (territoriality of insurance obligation). The exception is when people are sent abroad by their employer for shorter periods of time. Then, workers can stay insured in their social security system in the country of origin (posting). 3 Also, the worker may have the opportunity to make voluntary contributions to her social security account under certain conditions. Countries that Italy has negotiated SSAs with primarily include those where many Italians have emigrated to in the past. These include Argentina, Australia 4, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada 5, Cape Verde, the Channel Islands, Croatia, FYROM, Principality of Monaco, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela. Partial agreements have been concluded with Israel, South Korea (workers stay insured in their home countries) and Mexico (refers to pension transfer only). The agreement with New Zealand has been signed and awaits ratification. Agreements with Chile, Morocco, Japan and the Philippines are currently under preparation. With respect to countries where no arrangements exist, migrants solely rely on national legislation in Italy. As stated earlier every legal resident has access to the social security system and is required to pay contributions if working. Italian law stipulates that with the exception of seasonal workers, all non-eu workers preserve their accrued pension and 3 For the SSA with the U.S. this period is not limited. 4 In Australia the seniority pension is vested with at least 780 weeks of contributions in Italy. Periods of residence in Australia during working age are equivalent to working periods in order to cumulate Italian contribution 5 Periods of residence in Canada during working age are equivalent to working periods in order to cumulate Italian contribution

4 social insurance benefits after returning to their home countries and may start cashing them in upon reaching pension age, independently of any reciprocity agreement. This provision makes sure that the payment of pensions is carried out in accordance with the contribution-based system. Pensions are paid on a monthly basis (for smaller sums they are instead paid on a semester or even an annual basis), the same procedural rules applying as for pensions paid in Italy. Moreover, Italians who worked in non-ssa countries are able to make up for missed periods of contributions by voluntarily paying the respective amount (or 50% of it for claims before July 1997) to INPS. Numbers on Social Security Benefits Paid Abroad In 2005 Italy paid about 1.2 billion Euro to 409,395 recipients residing abroad. Table 1 shows the geographical distribution of benefit recipients and the amount paid by Italy. Table 1: Geographical distribution of benefits paid abroad by Italy, 2005 EU North America Latin America Oceania Rest of Europe, Asia, Africa Number of cases 137, ,820 72,810 54,679 33,492 Share of all cases Amount (Euro) 320,506, ,087, ,001, ,034,330 98,558,667 Share of total amount Monthly average payment Source: INPS, 2006 While most recipients live in the EU or North America, those living in Latin America receive the highest amount of benefits. The monthly average of 465 Euro paid to Latin American residents is more than double of what it is for most other regions. This difference is mainly due to changes in the legislation in the beginning of the 1990s concerning the amount and increase of benefits (e.g. the eligibility and exportability of

5 the minimum pension) in combination with the pattern of migration flows. Italians had a long tradition of migrating to Latin America until recently and many older people still live there. Italian pension statistics make a distinction between two different regimes when it comes to benefits paid abroad. One is the regime autonomo in which benefits are paid if the claimant has fulfilled the minimum requirements for receiving the benefit for pension this would be a contribution period of 20 years and can accordingly receive it anywhere in the world. The other regime is the international regime (regime internazionale) in which entitlements are claimed under the special international arrangements (EU and SSA) if the applicant has not contributed sufficiently and will consequently only receive a pro-rata payment from Italy. The latter payment administration concerns 86 percent of all applicants living abroad which corresponds to 67 percent of the total amount of payments made abroad. Almost 72 percent of all payments are made on a monthly bases and only 1 percent in yearly installments of whom more than 90 percent of beneficiaries reside in the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa. While there are many people in the EU who receive their benefits every six months, almost all receivers in Latin America qualify for monthly payments. Table 2: Benefits paid in the two regimes by benefit category, 2005 Share of cases Share of amount Amount per case Number of cases within regime Amount (Euro) within regime on average Old-age Regime autonomo Regime internazionale Total Disability Regime autonomo Regime internazionale Total Other Regime autonomo Regime internazionale Total Source: INPS, 2006

6 Table 2 reports the number of cases and the amount of benefits paid in the two regimes and distinguishes between benefit categories. Old-age benefits make up 55 percent of the total amount paid abroad. This shows, in fact, that other benefits are also exportable to a comparatively (to other countries) large extent. With respect to disability it can be seen that the few cases in the regime autonomo receive nevertheless 64 percent of the amount in this category, thus emphasizing that not all disability benefits can be exported. Conclusion The above overview on Italian social security provisions against the background of migration shows that Italy has taken great steps to provide and facilitate social security for international mobile people. Nevertheless, that there has not yet been much progress in negotiating agreements with countries sending very high numbers of immigrants to Italy. For example, 1.6 million immigrants were residing in Italy in 2000 and the second highest sending country was Albania with 167,439 migrants; yet, no SSA has been signed between Italy and Albania nor are there preparations in progress. This circumstance is also relevant for countries such as China, Sri Lanka, Egypt, India and Peru. Currently, Italy is negotiating with Morocco and the Philippines who are also among the top sending countries (top 1 st and 4 th sending country in 2000). Thus, there maybe evidence that Italy s SSA policy is shifting away from primarily concentrating on countries where many Italians live to considering their own immigration patterns and recognizing SSAs as a tool to improve and facilitate global labor mobility.

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