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Asian and Pacific nations urged to spend more on social protection

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December, 2016
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Many countries in Asia and the Pacific are spending too little on social protection programmes and should expand these to provide adequate cover to most of their populations, the Asian Development Bank has said.

It has collected data from 25 Asian countries and 13 in the Pacific into two reports: The Social Protection Indicator (SPI): Assessing Results for Asiaand Social Protection Indicator (SPI): Assessing Results for the Pacific.

These cover central government support for pensions and health insurance, child welfare programmes, assistance to elderly people and labour market programmes, such as cash-for-work. 

The studies found average government expenditure on social protection programmes in Asian countries was equivalent to 3.7% of GDP per capita and to 1.9% in the Pacific.

The bank said that in both cases this was “far too low to ensure sufficient coverage for most of the population”. 

Looking at changes since 2004, the reports found “appreciable progress” in the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam, while Cambodia and Nepal had made significant progress primarily through cash or in-kind transfers. 

Social protection coverage levels remain weak in other countries, it said, with little progress in the Pacific.

“Across Asia and the Pacific, national social protection systems fail to effectively reach poor and vulnerable persons, and deliver more benefits to men than women,” the bank said.

It noted only limited support for people with health problems and narrow targeting of resources that meant many people in need were not reached.

Sri Wening Handayani, principal social development specialist with ADB’s sustainable development and climate change department, said:  “This updated, comprehensive set of indicators gives governments an effective mechanism for devising new and improved social protection programmes.”

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