Compounding shocks have resulted in Sri Lanka facing its worst debt and economic crisis since independence, exacerbating an already challenging situation of low, precarious and volatile incomes, and severely impacting people’s wellbeing. If left unaddressed, this may lead to serious welfare challenges and could undermine social trust and cohesion, further weakening the social contract at a critical moment of the crisis. Yet, Sri Lanka’s current social protection system does not adequately address the widespread nature of low incomes and declining living standards.
Our new study with UNICEF Sri Lanka charts an alternative approach for Sri Lanka to build an inclusive social protection system. With time, this system can more adequately protect all Sri Lankans across the life cycle and provide the basis for sustainable growth. It presents a series of options for Sri Lanka to invest in universal lifecycle programmes – a universal child benefit (UCB), universal disability benefits and a pension-tested old age benefit – which can be introduced over time to gradually build an effective national social protection floor.