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Oxfam’s online ASEAN Regional Forum on Social Protection that Empowers Women

29/07/2021

Oxfam recently hosted an online ASEAN Regional Forum on Social Protection that Empowers Women. The two-day forum included three sessions. The first focused on why we need social protection systems that empower women, while the second concentrated on addressing unpaid care and domestic work (UCDW) via gender transformative social protection, using the case study of Argentina. The third session was on financing gender responsive social protection and care systems.

Featuring Development Pathways’ expert Stephen Kidd, the third session consisted of a panel discussion facilitated by Kathy Richards (Country Manager, Oxfam, Laos) between three global experts: Evelyn Astor (Economic and Social Policy Advisor, ITUC), Victoria (Marivic) Raquiza (Co-Convenor, Social Watch Philippines), and Stephen Kidd (Director, Development Pathways).

The panel started off with Stephen emphasizing the importance of investing in gender responsive social protection and care systems and how to provide investment incentives for governments. Stephen highlighted the importance of the type of social protection, emphasizing that if we continue promoting targeting programmes for the very poorest members of society (something that can never be done accurately, as explained in DP’s ‘Hit and Miss’ paper), we will be effectively undermining the role of social protection.

In a wide-ranging discussion, the panel addressed issues related to fiscal space including how to tackle the common argument used by governments that there is insufficient fiscal space for social protection programmes, how to earmark funds, the gendered impacts of different financing structures, and how governments can invest in a care economy. During the discussion on gendered impacts of different financing structures, Evelyn highlighted the unequal gender dynamics of contributory financing models that mirror gender inequalities in the labour market, as well as those present in non-contributory models. The panel also covered other issues such as corruption and how to ensure that civic space does not shrink under COVID-19.

Following this discussion, Stephen emphasised that, to promote a fairer society with more equitably distributed care responsibilities, governments must supplement basic social security systems that provide support throughout the lifecycle with additional benefits such as maternity and paternity benefits, and care givers benefits. Moreover, these cash benefits should be accompanied by strong social work systems with professional social care workers. Such systems will not only provide invaluable support to families with specific needs but can support post-COVID-19 economic recovery by generating employment.

Stephen also highlighted how provision of a tax-financed old age pension accessible to all would empower those unable to contribute to social insurance schemes during their working age. Generally, women are the most disadvantaged in social insurance systems and they make up the majority of old age societies.

The very thought-provoking panel discussion, and a list of supporting resources, is now available on the Oxfam Website here, and other forum sessions can be accessed on on Oxfam Cambodia’s Youtube channel.

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