The Asia-Pacific Social Protection Week 2016: Day 3 Session Coverage


Manila, 3 August 2016: Government representatives, policymakers, researchers and practitioners gathered for the Asia-Pacific Social Protection Week (APSP 2016) to discuss recent issues affecting social protection in developing economies, showcasing success stories from countries with advanced social protection systems. The APSP 2016 was organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), taking place in Manila, Philippines, from 1-5 August 2016.




Session 6:

Capacity Building for Monitoring Social Protection Programs - Tools and Indicators 

Moderator: Rana Hasan (Director, ERDI, ADB)


Ms. Sri Wening Handayani, (ADB) opened the first session of the day with an overview presentation of ADB’s newly launched Social Protection Indicator (SPI) book. The book features the amount of government social protection expenditure of countries in Asia using a variety of indicators. The coverage of each programme is included, explaining how the poor and non-poor are covered, as well as the gender dimensions of each programme. It exposes how there is little difference in social protection spending between lower middle-income and upper middle-income countries, indicating that there is room for expansion in lower middle-income countries. The book recommends strengthening labour market programmes, developing and expanding social assistance programmes, building sustainable social insurance progammes and integrating social protection into development strategies. 


Mr. Willem Adema, (Senior Economist, OECD Social Policy Division) then presented insights into social protection work in OECD countries. He pointed to the issue of developing cross-national indicators for comparative policy analysis, as being able to illustrate good practice prompts discussion and change where needed. In this vein, Adema views data as a tool of policy change. One should be mindful that comprehensive social systems were developed over a long period of time in OECD countries, therefore it is expected that Asian countries will take some time to develop their systems to the same level. That being said, there is a sense of urgency in Asia in light of the demographic dividend the region faces. Tax systems and reliance on the private sector to provide protection can affect “real” social spending levels across countries. The link between social spending and poverty is clear, indicating that to some extent, countries get the poverty rate they are willing to pay for. Public social spending reduces poverty, especially if systems are effective in getting support to low-income households. Researchers have also found that if you invest in children at an early age, the rate of return is highest. Even so, this approach is not being employed by OECD countries. There are considerable gaps at the beginning of the lifecycle, which remains an issue that needs to be addressed. 


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Ms. Oyunchimeg Dandar (Head, National Statistical Office, Mongolia) followed, providing an overview of Mongolian social policy figures, which features over 70 social protection programmes. She pointed to the importance of monitoring of expenditure and beneficiaries as well as the size of the target population and the gender dimensions of programmes. Lack of information about the population profile is an issue in Mongolia and there is no unit responsible for collecting social protection indicators. 


Mr. Bui Sy Tuan (Head, Social Security Section, Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs, Viet Nam) then presented on social protection systems in Vietnam and the use of social protection indicators (SPIs). He began by providing an overview of the social protection system in Vietnam. SPIs in 2012 indicated improvements since 2009, allowing for the analysis of gender, ethnicity, poverty and the depth and breadth of social protection programmes. Tuan submitted that the data should be disaggregated by poverty and gender to better analyze the situation of poor women and thus cater to them in social protection programmes.


Mr. David Abbott (Expert, Pacific Economic Development) presented on SPIs and policy for Pacific DMCs. The issues related to SPIs are not unique to the Pacific. One issue is the fact that traditionally, Pacific island societies have been highly community based. These fragmented island communities need to be self-reliant due to poor transportation in remote areas, demanding community centered support, which is reflected in the social protection system. However, recent increasing migration has eroded this sense of community and societies have become increasingly monetized. Traditionally, communities would share food and materials. Today, sharing is based on cash and commodities which has weakened traditional systems. This has seen a rise in poverty and vulnerability in the region. As working age people move to urban centers and overseas, the elderly are facing hardship and vulnerability, which government is not yet catering to. There is consequently an increasing need for governments to fill these gaps. 


Abbot went on to illustrate SPIs of the region, with the average social protection expenditure as a percentage of GDP per capita being 1,6%. Social insurance is often focused on those in formal employment which does not cater to those facing the greatest need. Abbott recommended governments up their social assistance programmes to compensate for this vulnerability. He then noted that where extensive programmes are in place, they are fragmented, having been implemented in an ad hoc manner in the region. Very few countries in the region have labour market programmes in place. New Zealand and Australia have recently introduced temporary seasonal worker programmes which has encouraged Pacific islanders to participate. To improve social protection in the Pacific, additional data and improved analysis is required. Social protection policy needs greater advocacy through links to poverty, vulnerability and exclusion




Armando Barrientos (Professor of Poverty and Social Justice, University of Manchester) then gave a special lecture on CCTs, titled ‘Human Development Conditional Income Transfers: Origins, Theories, Impacts and hallenges’.  Barrientos employed the term human development conditional income transfers as this accommodates a combination of services and cash, as opposed to CCTs that accommodate cash alone, as it is the combination of transfers that impacts household income. Barrientos began by presenting two pioneer programmes in Latin America, namely Brazil’s Bolsa Escola (1995) and Mexico’s Progresa (1997). The key insights of these programmes include the need to combine income transfers with basic services to optimize impact as well as the recognition that income transfers are not enough; human development is essential to address intergenerational poverty persistence


These Latin American programmes highlight the role of strengthening the human development of children. Latin America has seen almost one third of its population participating in human development income transfer programmes, which have expanded exponentially since 2001. Programmes in the region cover far more people than those living in extreme poverty alone, due to volatile and precarious labour markets. Barrientos submitted that human development conditional income transfer programmes must be focused on extreme poverty but expanded to cover populations in poverty and vulnerable to poverty. He reminded the audience that such programmes are rule and citizen based, thereby generating electoral support for incumbents. 


Barrientos then explored the measurable impact of human development conditional income transfers, which compellingly require low budgets of around 0,5% of GDP. The short-run impact on consumption poverty was found to be considerable, with participants consuming 80% of the value of the transfer. The medium-run impact of child nutrition was also significant, with a 1 cm increase in the height of child participants due to improved nutrition.


Studies indicate that conditionalities also have a positive impact on school enrollment. Child labour was also seen to reduce due to conditionalities, although not proportionally to the value of the transfer. Employment effects differ across adults, reflecting a re-allocation of household labour resources in response to the transfer. Fixed length participation was also found to reduce the need for support after exiting the programme. With respect to political sustainability, this remains a challenge for social assistance programmes at large as people do not participate in anti-poverty programmes as a political class. In fact, programme participation facilitates political participation, increasing voter registration and turnout. Survey data for Latin America shows that beneficiaries of human development transfers have greater support for incumbents than non-beneficiaries. It can be said that such programmes support political and social cohesion, thereby generating political sustainability.


Session 7:

The Rise of CCTs in Asia—Challenges and Opportunities

Moderator: Karin Schelzig (Senior Social Sector Specialist, SEHS, ADB)


This talk show formatted session granted insight into programmes in the Philippines, Indonesia and Pakistan. Karin Schelzig (Senior Social Sector Specialist, SEHS, ADB) addressed the issue of CCTs generating dependency. Barrientos noted that this issue was important to discuss from a political support perspective, however there is strong evidence to suggest that programme beneficiaries are more inclined to seek employment. Indeed, this does depend on the design of the programme, particularly the level of benefits.


Vicente Paqueo (CCT Expert, Fellow of Philippine Institute for Development Studies and Social Weather Station) added to the discussion noting that there has been no impact on vice expenditure, with beneficiaries allocating transfers predominantly to health and education expenses. It was found that although CCTs may not have an impact on the poverty head count, they do impact upon the poverty gap by improving income but not necessarily removing people from poverty. Schelzig added that the impact on poverty may only be felt by the children of the household who enjoy improved human development. 


The group then addressed components of CCT success. Marvi Memon (Chairperson of the Board, BISP, Pakistan) advanced that biometric payment, women’s empowerment and access to e-commerce, improved nutrition, financial literacy, data transparency and communications strategies in local languages are key components of success, as seen in the case of Pakistan. She also noted the positive impact of interest free loans for poor women in enriching lives via e-commerce as well as the potential for corporate responsibility funding to be garnered in support of social safety nets. Barrientos noted the essential role of social workers in ensuring capacity building and evolution of CCTs in line with demand. Registration and databases of participants are also essential in this regard. He concluded by emphasizing the need to pay attention to the scale of programmes, with larger programmes achieving a greater impact


Session 8B:

Youth Employment and Decent Work

Moderator: Andrew Parker (Principal Social Sector Economist, PAUS, ADB)


This interview style panel began with the presenters granting insight into the experiences of vulnerable and marginalized youth in their respective countries. Adnan Ahmad (Amal Academy, Youth Initiative, Pakistan) noted how 60% of Pakistan’s 200 million people are youth, with 70% being unemployed. Fellow panelist, Vanessa Rodie (Youth Initiative, Solomon Islands) works predominantly with rural youth, aiding them in the job search and skills development. 60% of the population of the Solomon Island are youth, with 75% being unemployed. This has resulted in urban drift among job seeking youth. Paul Ng (Training Coordinator, Plan International Philippines), focuses on marginalized youths’ economic empowerment in the Philippines. He reflected on the compromised education level of youth, especially in typhoon affected areas of the country. Flexible learning options for high school dropouts, technical and vocational training as well as facilitating jobs matching therefore represent the focus of Plan International. 


The panel revealed that to scale up such youth employment initiatives, community collaboration, investment in flexible learning options, achieving more efficient access to education and involving the government in catering to the jobs mismatch, are all essential. Outreach to public sector universities is also important to bridge the gap between education and what skills are in demand. The private sector also plays a crucial role in giving the youth opportunities to gain experience and learn skills through internship programmes and training. A lack of awareness in the public sector in supporting such initiatives was recognized as a challenge. Furthermore, e-learning is compromised due to limited access to the internet, especially in rural areas. That being said, technology is likely to wholly transform the nature of employment and skills demands in the future, therefore it is necessary to harness technology without excluding the most marginalized youth from accessing such technology based job opportunities.


The panel agreed that fostering flexible, alternative learning initiatives, combined with a government commitment to prioritizing rural infrastructure development, is essential to generating youth employment. In this vein, education systems need to urgently adapt to contemporary skills demands that will better engage the youth in the economy. Entrepreneurship and innovation provide opportunities for the youth to collectively engage in the economy in a manner where they are viewed as an economic resource. Taking on board this perspective, jobs shouldn’t be the sole focus of capitalizing on the youth. Instead, we should encourage life-long learning and being a self-starter. Small business loans schemes catering to youth is an emerging concept that has been found to support this ambition.


Session 9A:

Public Policy on Aging and Older People Care Services

Moderator: Ayumi Konishi (Director General, EARD, ADB) 


In the penultimate session of the day, Rodora Turalde Babaran (Director, Human Development Directorate, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Department, ASEAN Secretariat) recognised how dealing with rapidly aging populations in Asia is not the specialty of any one organization in the region. This is surprising considering the ASEAN nations reflect the global trend of decreasing fertility and increasing life spans, resulting in an impending demographic shift towards dependency. There is a limited window of opportunity to prepare for this shift towards rapid aging. Social security, coverage, financing and scaling up, health and palliative care infrastructure are all crucial reducing the burden of a dependent population. 


Hiroyuki Yamaya (Director, Office of International Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan) presented on long-term care insurance in Japan, a country that is famed for its aging population. He noted how the cost of medical care needs to be reduced in order to cater to the rapidly aging who are mostly unemployed, especially when considering annual care expenditure only increases as one ages. On this count, Japan has seen the introduction of a long-term care insurance system


Peh Kim Choo (Chief, Programmes, Tsao Foundation) then presented the Community for Successful Aging Project, based in Singapore. She mentioned how fragmented service delivery and an outdated mindset are challenges to the demands of Asia’s rapidly aging population. Therefore, a community based integrated care system presents a solution in the making. This would include the promotion of self-care in health and community risk screening. Vera Siesjo (Country Director, ACCESS Health International) concluded the session with a look into the Chinese experience, which encourages product and service innovation, through government and private sector innovation and collaboration, in the market of aging.


A special lecture followed dedicated to Infrastructure Finance for Sustainable Growth in Asia by Naoyuki Yoshino (Dean, ADB Institute). He provided an overview of examples of successful paths towards generating tax revenue for sustainable infrastructure development. Increasing the rate of return on government investments in infrastructure can support social security while generating employment.  


Session 10:

Emerging Issues in Universal Health Coverage 

Moderator: Soonman Kwon, (Technical Advisor, SDCC, ADB)


Eduardo Banzon (Senior Health Specialist, SDCC, ADB and former PhilHealth President) opened the final panel of the day, presenting on health care coverage in the informal sector of the Philippines. He explained how a call for universal health coverage (UHC) emerged in the country, prompted by declining health care in terms of quality, infrastructure, services and accessibility. This saw people in the Philippines resorting to private health care. In pursuing strengthening national health services and insurance systems, governments therefore had to determine what portion of the population to subsidize. The Philippines Sin Tax Law was implemented, seeing the general allocation of incremental revenue from sin tax, of which 85% is now allocated to health, a portion is allocated to subsidizing the poor informal sector, via Philhealth. This approach to UHC is also being employed in Vietnam, discussed in India and piloted in Bangladesh and Pakistan.


Hasbullah Thabrany (Professor, School of Public Health, University of Indonesia) then presented on emerging issues in Indonesia’s UHC and health insurance. Reform is moving toward universal health coverage via a single payer system where the poor are subsidized by the government. Comprehensive benefits are delivered via the public and private health care systems. K. Srinath Reddy (President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)) followed with a presentation on where India is on the road to achieving UHC. Pursuing UHC has not been a straight road to success, encountering persistently slow progress and poor coverage. At the offset, a framework was developed in India by the government, calling for increased funding with a focus on the delivery of primary health care. Later, a slow-down in economic growth saw the UHC being deprioritized on the government agenda. This year, discussions have been reinitiated, with a proposal for a National Health Protection Scheme. Reddy demonstrated how health population statistics correlate with state investment in health in India, with the healthiest states enjoying the highest investments. He went on to conclude that democratization of access to health care can only be achieved by investing in primary health care. 


Mittal Shah (Coordinator, SEWA Social Security, Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), India) gave the final presentation of the day on emerging issues in UHC, showcasing SEWA’s experiences in the field. SEWA offers services for insurance cooperation, including insurance education and product development. Priorities are surveyed in communities to inform the provision of services, including health insurance, income loss cover, term-life cover and bundled products.


We invite you to continue reading the full coverage of the event here:

Day 1 of the APSP Week

Day 2 of the APSP Week

Day 4 of the APSP Week

Day 5 (Final) of the APSP Week

Article and photos by Ashleigh Kate Slingsby