Empowering Working Families to Build Better Lives
Employee-benefit programme iCare Benefits has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide 80 million workers worldwide with access to essential products and services by 2020. By 2019, the company aims to enable access to free education for over 32 million workers and their families through its online platform.
In Asia, factory workers commonly earn between US$100 and US$400 per month, which means they do not qualify for financing from banks or other financial institutions. Even though these workers have steady incomes, they are not able to make investments in essential products and services such as healthcare, education and time- and money-saving home appliances. For these workers, the most common alternative to cash payments is informal loans from friends, family or the black market, which charges exorbitant interest rates that sap workers’ incomes.
Launched in 2012 in Vietnam, iCare Benefits was born out of consultations with labor union representatives. Now headquartered in Singapore, the company is active in Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Philippines (and is starting up in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Brazil). There are plans to expand its reach to over 30 countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The company’s inclusive business model employs an innovative approach to financing within a seamless retail platform. Workers at participating factories can purchase products online or from workplace-based showrooms. iCare Benefits’ repayment limit of 30 percent of gross monthly salary reinforces responsible spending habits and ensures that workers do not over-leverage their incomes.
In addition, iCare Benefits is engaging a range of partners to create a unique global education platform for workers and their families. By 2018, the platform will provide access to critical knowledge such as financial literacy, health, basic language skills, digital literacy and occupational education, including safety and workers’ rights.
To achieve its ambitious BCtA commitment, the company is building a public-private alliance with investors, global NGOs, foundations, government bodies, global brands, manufacturers and service providers. It has pledged to bring together at least ten global and five local partners in each country of operation in order to promote collaboration in providing access to essential products, services and education for working families.