BD social protection spending lowest in SSWA: ESCAP-ILo
Bangladesh's expenditure on social protection accounts for less than 1 per cent of its gross domestic product and is the lowest in South and South West Asia (SSWA), according to a latest global report by UN agencies
The report titled 'The Protection We Want: Social Outlook for Asia and the Pacific', jointly produced by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), highlighted the need for well-functioning social protection systems saying that it was central to increasing national resilience against economic shocks.
According to the report, social protection expenditure in Bangladesh was 0.7 per cent of its GDP which was the lowest among countries in South and South West Asia. Levels of public expenditures on social protection, excluding health, are also too low to be effective in many countries in the region, said the report released on Thursday.
The report revealed that despite rapid socioeconomic ascent, most countries in the Asia-Pacific region had weak social protection systems riddled with gaps. It said that about half of the region's population had no social protection coverage and only a handful of countries had comprehensive social protection systems with relatively broad coverage.
'The on-going Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of well-designed, implementable and coordinated social protection systems in protecting people's lives and promoting their well-being,' the report said. The pandemic has also shown that social protection should be a right for all, rather than a privilege for a few, the report mentioned.
The report identified that the high prevalence of informal employment, which amounted to 70 per cent of the total workers, was one of the key reasons for lower investment in social protection in the region, as most of these workers and their employers remained outside legal scheme.
The ESCAP estimates indicate that an economic contraction of 5 per cent could increase the Asia-Pacific poverty headcount at the international poverty lines of $3.20 and $5.50 per day by approximately 93 and 90 million people respectively.
In a more extreme scenario, an economic contraction of 20 per cent could increase the Asia-Pacific poverty headcount by around 414 million people at the $3.20 per day line and by 381 million people at the $5.50 per day line, it said.
Expanding social protection carries immense benefits at an affordable cost and investment in basic social protection and will have an immediate impact on reducing poverty, inequality and purchasing power disparities, the report said.
Initial studies in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka found that the Covid-19 pandemic had reduced average incomes across the whole income distribution and women were being disproportionately impacted by the crisis.