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Targeted social assistance is missing the poor and insecure middle, workshop hears

Only a tiny fraction of populations which overwhelmingly live in poverty or insecurity are covered by any form of social protection in a number of Asian countries, a workshop for NGOs in Hanoi heard.

Stephen Kidd, senior social policy advisor at Development Pathways, argued that the big debate about the shape of social protection systems was between those advocating citizenship-based schemes and those promoting charity-based schemes targeted only at those in extreme poverty.

Such social assistance excludes the majority of populations in many Asian countries living in poverty with an income of $1.25 - $2.50 a day, many of whom work in the informal sector, he told the NGOs, who will be working on advocacy for social protection for informal workers. And, as a 'safety net,' such programmes have "lots of holes and many people fall through," he said, referring to how targeting has exclusion errors, meaning many that even many of those living in extreme poverty do not receive assistance.

In contrast, the concept of a social protection floor, a minimum entitlement for every individual throughout their lifecycle, ensures that nobody falls through and thereby effectively addresses inequality and economic development, he added.

The workshop, entitled Regional Workshop on Inclusive and Equitable Social Protection for Marginalized Workers in ASEAN, was held last week. Kidd contributed to the 2016 publication Social Protection for Informal Workers in Asia, which suggested that Asia's growing workforce needs innovative solutions to reduce risks and ensure security for workers in vulnerable employment.