Byline: Syed Salman Hassan and Syeda Mahnaz Hassan
Social protection initiatives are designed to improve the socio-economic status; protect the rights of the impoverished and to protect susceptible people against livelihood threats. These generally include transfer of income or assets to the poor. Carefully targeted and effectively administered social protection programmes improve employment opportunities, decrease loss of human capital, and, in case of financial or economic shocks, preclude people from falling into poverty (Bonnet, 2015). Proficient social protection policies and measures are the major component of social policy as these promote social cohesion (Behrendt andHagemejer, 2009).
Barrientos (2013) expounded that the social protection plays a vital role in the broader developmental agenda of the developing countries and performs three basic functions:
(i) "to help protect basic levels of consumption among those in poverty or in danger of falling into poverty;
(ii) to facilitate investment in human and other productive assets which alone can provide escape routes from persistent and intergenerational poverty; and
(iii) to strengthen the agency of those in poverty so that they can overcome their predicament".
Social Protection is considered to be necessary in order to (Norton, Conway and Foster, 2001):
* "ensure social justice and equity and hence making growth more efficient and equitable
* protect citizens against risks (including financial crises)
* promote investment in human capital for poor households and communities
* enable people to take economic risks to pursue livelihoods
* compensate for declining effectiveness of traditional and informal systems for enhancing livelihood security".
Social protection programs have become a fundamental part for socio-economic growth in developing countries. These countries have realized that without government's involvement decent living standard of the people and inclusive growth cannot be ensured. In Pakistan, unfortunately, no social protection framework or national social policy has been explicitly articulated yet (SPDC, 2017). Various cash assistance programmes and social security schemes have been initiated mainly as a series of adhoc responses to problems raised by specific situations or endorsed by international donor agencies like IMF (Jamal,2017). The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP, 2016) also highlights the fact that the "social protection framework contains duplication and overlapping programmes and recommends working towards an overall integrated and efficient social protection strategy".
Planning Commission of Pakistan made an effort to draft anall-encompassing social protection frame work and subsequently, in 2008, the National Social Protection Strategy was made public (Government of Pakistan,2008). That was the first comprehensive official national social protection document. It was based on a thorough review of prevailing programmes and Government interventions. Although the Government formally adopted it but no steps were taken to ensure its implementation (SDPI, 2013). At present, after the 18th Constitutional Amendment, social protection delivery has been devolved from federal government and has become a provincial government's topic, therefore, the provinces are now developing their own social protection strategies (Jamal, 2017).
History of Social Protection in Pakistan
In Pakistan, Social Protection programmes were initiated after 1970. First social protection initiative was Employee Social Security Scheme which provided medical services and cash allowances only to public sector workers and their children. Along with this, the Workers' Children Education Ordinance and the Workers Welfare Fund Scheme were also introduced during early 70s. A federal scheme, the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), was established in 1976 to provide old age grants, old age benefits a s well as survivor's pensions. In 80s, in compliance to the Islamic injunctions, Zakat and Ushr Ordinance was promulgated at federal, provincial as well as district level, mainly focusing the marginalized and poor segments of the society.
In 90s,Bait-ul-Mal was established for providing financial assistance specifically to the minorities and to the poor which were not covered under Zakat (Nishtar, 2007). According to ADB (2014),the coverage of Zakat is very limited as more than thirteen million families are eligible for Zakat but only ten percent out of this deserving population gets it.
Due to implementation problems, all of the programs discussed above were unable to produce desired effect on poverty alleviation. During financial year 2015-16, the Government spent almost 1.4% of its GDP on social protection; which is extremely less than its neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka (3.1 percent) and India (4.7 percent) (ADB, 2017).
Critical Analysis of Social Protection Programmes of Pakistan
Pakistan is the world's sixth most populous country; its population exceeds 200 million and is expected to reach 244 million by 2030 (United Nations, 2017). Pakistan became a lower-middle-income country in 2008. However, in terms of absolute number of poor, 74 million persons were estimated poor during the year 2015-16, while the estimated poor population was 61 million in the year 2010-11. Regarding the estimates of household vulnerability to poverty in...