The some-pain-no-gain era of double payments by Indian workers on temporary assignments abroad will no longer happen in Germany at least.
They will now not be required to pay social security taxes there as the India-Germany Social Security Agreement (SSA) signed last year comes into effect on Thursday. This is the second such pact after the India-Belgium SSA.
A social security agreement, or totalisation agreement, is a reciprocal program that prevents double payment to social security systems. Thus, when India signs such an agreement with a country, Indian workers on temporary assignment will not be required to contribute to the social security system there, if they are already contributing to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).
Similarly, temporary workers from that country on assignment to India would not need to contribute to EPFO if they pay social security taxes in their home country.
Contribution to social security systems in most developed countries is mandatory. But temporary foreign workers on short stays rarely qualify for social security benefits as withdrawals are permitted usually after contributing for over 10 years. So, while employees do not get any benefit, it puts additional burden on employers too as they usually have to contribute to the social security system in their country and India.
In fact, some countries that get large numbers of temporary Indian workers end up collecting substantial sums on this count, but the employees get no benefit from its proceeds. According to estimates, for instance, Indian IT professionals in the US contribute close to $1 billion every year on social security taxes.
Interestingly, until last year, it was not mandatory for international workers in India to contribute to EPFO. Now, EPFO is the recognised Indian agency under the totalisation agreements that India is entering into.