FEATURE STORY

Building Myanmar's Social Protection System Can Protect the Poorest

November 4, 2015

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Strengthening social protection systems can help poor families like U Tin Myint's build resilience to disasters, prevent children from dropping out of school, promote income security, and help end poverty.

Photo: Kyaw Soe Lynn / World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government has committed to increase spending on social assistance in Myanmar, particularly for a school stipends program that will keep students from poor and vulnerable families in school.
  • Much more is needed, however, to achieve comprehensive and inclusive social protection that reaches the poorest segments of the population.
  • Expanding social protection further can help households build resilience to disasters, prevent children from dropping out of school, promote income security, and help end poverty.

Takone, Myanmar – U Tin Myint, 66, lives in Naung Ngar Pin village, Takone township in central Myanmar with his wife, children and grandchildren. All of his eight children dropped out of school to work as casual laborers. Four of his children currently work, each earning on average 2,500 Kyat ($2) per day during the rainy season to support the household of 13.

Neither U Tin Myint nor his wife, Daw Nyunt, have a pension. Myanmar’s social security programs provide pensions for civil servants and health insurance for private sector workers but there is no coverage yet for informal workers like U Tin Myint.

“During the dry season, finding casual work nearby becomes harder for my children and they often migrate for short periods to Shan state to work on sugar cane plantations,” he shares. “Two of my daughters are widows looking after their children. One of my daughters passed away eight months ago due to pneumonia. She did not have health insurance and I did not have the money to send her to a hospital in Nay Pyi Taw for treatment.” To pay for funeral expenses, he was able to get help from a community funeral fund.

U Tin Myint’s ordeals exemplify the need for comprehensive social protection programs. Only 3.2% of Myanmar’s population is covered by the government’s social protection programs and only 0.1% focus on the poorest and most vulnerable.

Traditional support structures such as families and communities are insufficient to help households cope with multiple issues that affect their wellbeing. Community support is usually limited to funeral funds and sporadic donations. Families suffer increased hardship when the main income earner becomes injured or passes away.  


" Two of my daughters are widows looking after their children. One of my daughters passed away eight months ago due to pneumonia. She did not have health insurance and I did not have the money to send her to a hospital in Nay Pyi Taw for treatment. "

U Tin Myint

Nuang Ngar Pin village

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Social security programs such as health insurance and pensions can also help vulnerable families cope with health shocks and drops in income during old age.

Photo: Nyain Thit Nyi / World Bank

To strengthen social protection programs in Myanmar, the World Bank is supporting the government in finding the most effective and efficient way to identify gaps and shape the strategic directions of social protection policies.

The World Bank is currently supporting the government in these areas:

With additional income I would buy more food like meat, fish and eggs as we now eat mostly vegetables and rice. I would also improve the house, it is too small. I would also save to invest as now I have to make loans through middlemen that charge me 20% interest per month. I managed to buy two pigs and hope to make a profit after 10 months,” says U Tin Myint.

Income security could be strengthened in Myanmar through public works programs that can systematically provide job opportunities in times of hardship. These programs can help families such as U Tin Myint’s keep a stable income throughout the year, minimize debts, and even help them save for other investments. It can also help communities recover from disasters and build future resilience by enhancing or building new infrastructure.

Social security programs such as health insurance and pensions can also help vulnerable families cope with health shocks and drops in income during old age.