Opinion: Social protection for development

By Dr. T Prabhakar Reddy

According to the International Labor Organization, “Social protection or social security is a human right and is defined as the set of policies and programs designed to reduce and prevent poverty and vulnerability throughout the life cycle. of life”. Social protection and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are intimately linked as the former is a strategy to achieve the latter and many goals are directly or indirectly linked to it.

SDG targets
According to the global SDG indicator framework, target 1.3 of Goal 1 speaks to the implementation of social protection systems and measures for all, and plans to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable. Target 3.8 addresses the achievement of universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health services, and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines. affordable for everyone.

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Similarly, target 5.4 is to recognize the value of unpaid care and domestic work provided by women and girls and to address it through social protection policies in addition to promoting shared responsibility within the community. household and family. Target 8.5 addresses the achievement of full and productive employment and decent work for all and persons with disabilities, with the social protection system contributing to increased productivity and human development. In fact, social protection is one of the four pillars of decent work. Target 10.4 deals with the design of policies relating to fiscal, wage and social protection and the progressive guarantee of greater equality.

Contextualization
In India, public expenditure on social protection (excluding health) of the active population (15-64 years old) in relation to GDP is only 0.6%. The social protection system review framework includes; promotion, prevention and protection measures. Promotional measures aim to improve incomes both in the short to medium term and in the longer term through interventions on livelihoods and human capital, while preventive measures seek to avoid deprivation prospectively by helping households to manage different risks ex ante.

Protective measures, on the other hand, relieve deprivation ex post to the extent that the other two sets of measures do not. The government should follow the ILO normative framework for building social protection systems, including floors, which are key to achieving the SDGs (WSPR, 2017-19, ILO), including:
• Access to essential health care, including maternity care, etc.
• Basic income security for children
• Basic income security for the population of working age who cannot earn sufficient income, in particular in the event of illness, unemployment, maternity and disability
• Basic income security for the elderly

It seems that the Indian government is planning to show its commitment to transform the existing social protection into effective protection by making it a legal right for all informal workers. Thus, they must make changes to the “Social Security Code” to make it more meaningful and relevant to the country’s workforce.

Creation of fiscal space
According to the World Bank, well-designed and implemented social protection systems can powerfully shape countries, improve human capital and productivity, reduce inequality, build resilience, and end the intergenerational cycle of poverty. It has been established that such systems are “transformative” because they not only help the poor and most vulnerable to mitigate economic and fiscal shocks, but also help to ensure equality of opportunity by giving them a chance to get out of poverty. poverty and to become productive members of society. In fact, well-designed social protection programs are cost-effective, costing countries on average around 1.5% of GDP (The World Bank in Social Protection, 2020).

Having recognized the importance of social protection, many developing countries are resorting to creating fiscal space using different methods and approaches. The governments of Costa Rica and Thailand have cut military spending to fund social investments. Indonesia and Ghana have used fuel subsidies for social protection systems. Bolivia is a classic example of a tax on the extraction of natural resources (gold, tin, oil and gas), which allowed the government to provide non-contributory pensions to all Bolivians over the age of 60, cash transfers for all public elementary school children from primary to eighth grade. The Norwegian approach of taxing oil profits and storing the income in the Government Pension Fund Global is perhaps the best example that can be emulated.

The Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (Amendment) Act 2015 can be used by the Government of India to generate revenue for social welfare schemes rather than the current system of leaving it to district authorities in which resource usage is 33%, which is sub-optimal. There are many such avenues in India from which resources can be raised and invested in health and education, while socio-economic investments that benefit poor households can be scaled up.

Challenges
First, the lack of coordination and overlaps in program delivery, both within and between levels of government, reduce the accountability of those responsible for delivering social protection services. Second, maintaining a “one size fits all” social protection agenda and policy mix does not respond to the growing spatial diversity of living standards. Third, the fundamentals of program administration and procedures in most states are well below standard.

Fourth, for many programs, expansion and innovation in the private sector has created opportunities for new modalities of public-private partnership program delivery that have yet to be fully explored by the public sector. Finally, the World Bank report mentions that household targeting mechanisms are poorly designed and implemented. Coupled with limited government resources, this is a real challenge to focus on.

Avoid mistakes
First, the design of appropriate targeting mechanisms based on authentic data and the creation of a “unified database” of actual beneficiaries by the government would result in an “evidence base” through which to track the benefits received or not becomes possible. Moreover, the evidence base created is useful in policy and programmatic action to effectively improvise those that already exist.

Second, regular monitoring of implementation would help to avoid inclusion and exclusion errors. Third, tailoring social protection programs to the specificities and diversity of the population and avoiding duplication in program delivery within and between different levels of government would cover the excluded and provide social protection. effective for people in need. Fourth, minimum social security standards, universality and portability of social protection benefits when people migrate to other places, should be addressed by amending the “social security code”. Additionally, moving to more consolidated, cash-based programs for the chronic poor and addressing the needs of the urban poor is the need of the hour.

Finally, universal social protection requires additional financing which can be met by creating fiscal space. The Indian government should allocate more funds to social protection systems in the next budget and set up a body to review resource mobilization. Achieving the SDGs will then not be an insurmountable task.

The author has worked with UNICEF, UN Women and UNDP in New Delhi. He is currently Director (Research and Programs) at Satavahana Development Society, Secunderabad.


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Joel C. Hicks