Challenges and experiences in extending social protection

Challenges and experiences in extending social protection

How to guarantee health care and economic income for low income groups in Latin American countries

Extending social protection to groups that are economically weak or groups that have been excluded from social protection is a topic of permanent concern for governments of almost every developing country. This paper is an attempt to illustrate and respond to three questions related to the extension of social protection:

  • what has been done on the subject of extending social protection?
  • what has happened to the programs that have been carried out?
  • what are the prospects ?

While admitting that the concept of social protection can be extremely broad, the author limits his analysis to health care and to providing economic means in old age. He starts by identifying two different categories of people who are excluded from social protection: workers in the informal sector and the weakest and unorganized societal groups. This last category include :

  • women
  • immigrants
  • indigenous people

In an attempt to analyse the reasons of exclusion, the paper underscores the main factors that hinder effective extension:

  • the design of social security regimes that takes into account just the formal economy and the employment status of the participants
  • the existence of economic and social discrimination
  • the low participation rates
  • the administrative capacity

The paper then focuses on the Latin America region and presents the main characteristics of the implemented social security systems. It points out some characteristics which have a negative impact on the efficiency of the social security regimes:

  • the high level of informality prevailing in the labor market
  • some political relationships that tend to give privileges to certain groups at the expense of the poor
  • the deterioration of basic social services such as health and education due to the application of fiscal adjustment measures

The final part of the paper discusses social protection schemes that have been put in operation. The list of schemes include the following:

  • minimum income integration regimes
  • food subsidies
  • specific benefits subject to proof of resources
  • food in exchange for work
  • social funds
  • micro credit
  • social security

The paper concludes that some examples of social security systems show the viability of the multi-pillar approach in Latin America and can guarantee health care and economic income for low income groups.

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