Towards a Social Protection Floor for Lebanon: Policy Options and Costs of Basic Social Subsidies throughout Life (Policy Note) [EN/AR] – Lebanon
New ILO-UNICEF report: Lebanon must prioritize investing in a social protection floor
As Lebanon faces an unprecedented climax of economic, social and political crises, a new report outlines how implementing lifelong social grants could lay the groundwork for a new social contract at the both sustainable and people-centred.
BEIRUT (ILO News) – A new policy brief from the ILO and UNICEF explores the reform of social protection policies that would enable Lebanon to cope with the various crises it faces, and outlines the costs of implementing these policies.
The study focuses on policy options for basic lifelong social grants. The comprehensive lifecycle approach to social protection addresses the different risks and vulnerabilities that individuals face throughout their lives and designs policies that provide adequate protection and income security at each stage. This contrasts with the relief approach of social protection which primarily targets the extremely poor.
The paper argues for the creation of social allowances to provide adequate income protection for anyone facing a life-cycle contingency – primarily, tax-financed child allowance, disability allowance and social pension – as the basis of a tiered, rights-based scheme. national social protection system. Based on data from the latest Labor Force and Household Living Conditions Survey, the paper presents an assessment of the coverage and cost of basic benefits throughout life by adjusting eligibility criteria and benefit levels to balance long-term goals of universal coverage against currently available resources.
The document comes against the backdrop of the unprecedented climax of the economic, social and political crises currently facing Lebanon. Macroeconomic, fiscal and monetary collapses led to a rapid slowdown in business, rising inflation, rising unemployment and underemployment. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the damage caused by the explosion in Beirut has compounded pre-existing social and labor market issues. The continued postponement of urgent reforms has further deepened poverty and rising inequality. This underscores the long-standing need to invest in an inclusive, lifecycle-based social protection system, the report points out.
“This unprecedented crisis presents an equally unprecedented opportunity to reimagine an inclusive lifelong social protection system for Lebanon that not only protects the millions of people who have suffered as a result of the crisis, but places investment people at the center of a new social contract,” said ILO Regional Director for Arab States, Ruba Jaradat.
“An approach that only temporarily protects households – or only targets the extremely poor – will not be sustainable if it does not address structural weaknesses in the social protection system. What Lebanon needs is to lay the foundations for a strong social protection floor,” Jaradat said.
The Lebanese national system for the provision of public goods and services and social protection is highly fragmented and unequal, and relies on the assistance of international and national non-governmental organizations. With almost no tax-financed guarantees to provide basic income security to people facing the vagaries of the life cycle during childhood, working age and old age, large numbers of people in the “ missing link” have no access to social protection.
Over the past few decades, the main source of economic protection in Lebanon has been universal price subsidies for major imports such as wheat, fuel, medicines and a list of basic commodities – most recently through reserves of the Central Bank of Lebanon. Discussions on the partial or total removal of these subsidies have been ongoing since August 2020.
Removing the only remaining form of state-funded social assistance will lead to a significant deterioration in the standard of living of the poor and middle class, unless comprehensive, adequate and permanent social protection guarantees are put in place. square.
The report estimates that reallocating around a quarter to a third of the resources currently allocated to price subsidies towards social protection would be enough to lay a solid foundation for the social protection floor that Lebanon desperately needs.
“It is clear that Lebanon needs a national social assistance system more than ever. But unless the gaps are quickly filled with strong, long-term social assistance programs, this will never remain just a dream,” said UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Yukie Mokuo.
“While the majority of the country now faces a very difficult situation, people with specific vulnerabilities – such as raising children or living with disabilities – are simply left without support. The need to quickly put programs in place to supporting these groups is now very urgent, especially as the country rushes to remove price subsidies that can cause the prices of almost anything to spike massively overnight,” Mokuo said.
Immediate compensation measures should be accompanied by plans for the development of a long-term multi-tiered social protection system, and should lay the foundations for a permanent social protection floor for Lebanon, according to the study. Comprehensive and inclusive cash transfer programs – based on broad coverage – are the most efficient and effective means of reaching the affected population, offsetting the negative effects of lifting subsidies while promoting inclusion and reducing inequality.