Designing Social Protection for Non-Standard Workers in Southeast Asia

This working paper is a compilation of existing social protection schemes in SEA-6 and key policy considerations for governments and the private sector.

While flexible, informal or non-standard work has consistently accounted for significant economic activity in Southeast Asia, the digital economy has introduced new opportunities for productive work In response, governments are reviewing how to address the gaps and limitations in social protection coverage for citizens in undertaking traditional and new flexible, informal or non-standard work.  

This working paper is a landscape review of social protection policies for non-standard workers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam (collectively, “SEA-6”). Key policy considerations for governments and the private sector are also discussed. 

Key Takeaways: 

  1. Non-standard work arrangements comprise the majority of the working population in Southeast Asia.  The informal workforce represents over 78% of the working population over the age of 15, which is significantly higher than the global average of around 51%. 
  2. SEA-6 economies have taken a more flexible approach in promoting social protection. Broadly, countries have tailored existing social protection policies to encourage participation. 
  3. There is an opportunity for public-private partnership to promote social protection of non-standard workers. With more changes to be expected in the future of work, continued collaboration between individuals, governments and the private sector, such as digital platform companies, can lead to policy solutions that are efficient, flexible and adaptive to the changing needs of workers. 

This working paper is an invitation to a conversation. Its aim is to inspire important discussions between the public and the private sector to design and co-create responsive social protection policies for the welfare of citizens doing flexible, informal or non-standard work in the region.

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Mouna Aouri

Programme Fellow

Mouna Aouri is an Institute Fellow at the Tech For Good Institute. As a social entrepreneur, impact investor, and engineer, her experience spans over two decades in the MENA region, South East Asia, and Japan. She is founder of Woomentum, a Singapore-based platform dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs in APAC through skill development and access to growth capital through strategic collaborations with corporate entities, investors and government partners.

Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded to catalyse research and collaboration on social, economic and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy in Southeast Asia. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore and Advisor to the Founder of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 15 countries worldwide.  Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.


Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management. Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group and the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, a grantmaker focused on gender equity that has served over 47 million women and girls since 2003.


As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to several companies within the COMO Group. Ming also serves as a Council Member of the Council for Board Diversity, on the boards of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC), and on the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.


In the non-profit, educational and government spheres, Ming is a director of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) and chairs the Asia Advisory board for Swiss hospitality business and management school EHL. She also serves on  the Council for Board Diversity and the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.


Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.