Uplifting the Social Protection Programmes in Punjab, Pakistan (GIZ Project 2019)
Social Protection: Concept Definition
The National Social Protection Framework of Pakistan defines ‘social protection’, as;
“a set of policies, programmes and interventions that address poverty and vulnerability by contributing to raising the living standard of poor households, ensuring equitable access to basic services and protecting the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised.”
There are three broad categories of social protection programmes; social assistance, social insurance, and labour market interventions. Social assistance programmes identify vulnerable groups who either don’t qualify for insurance or have inadequate insurance against risks. Social insurance tends to use contributory schemes to respond to threats such as illness, old age, and unemployment. Labour market interventions aim at skills development of the working age population to make them productive and help them secure employment.
Social Protection System in Pakistan
In Pakistan, after the promulgation of the 18th amendment in the constitution of Pakistan, provincial governments have been made accountable for all the social development programmes, including health, education, and social protection.
Consequently, the federal ministries such as Ministry of Zakat and Ushr, the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education, and the Ministry of Labour, Manpower, and Overseas Pakistanis were devolved to the provincial level. However, some entities such as the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal (PBM) still retained their federal status and now function in coordination with the provincial government. Recently, the federal cabinet approves the creation of a new division ‘Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division’ at the national level.
Social Protection System in Punjab
In Punjab, the Punjab Social Protection Authority (PSPA) was also established in 2015 after the review of the social sector expenditure, which found that so many departments and institutions were involved in social protection, but there was a little or no coordination among them. It was found that there are 119 programmes and projects, which were being implemented by 23 departments or institutions.
There are wide range of programmes covering risks such as healthcare, old age, survivors, disability, sickness, child or family benefits, unemployment, housing, labour market risks, and poverty and social exclusion. However, most of these programmes cover only a small segment out of the target vulnerable population.
There are various social protection interventions in Punjab, and there is a need to explore these programmes in detail to benchmark their performance. Interagency Social Protection Assessments (ISPA)’s Core Diagnostic Instrument (CODI) is used for the purpose and helps identify the implementation gaps, addressing them can be instrumental in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.
Uplifting Social Protection System in Punjab
In Punjab, the Urban Sector Planning and Services Management Unit (aka ‘The Urban Unit’), on behalf of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Pakistan and PSPA, undertook the data collection and research exercise for the assessment of selected social protection in Punjab. A total of six social protection programmes at both federal and provincial level were chosen for this assessment in consultation with the PSPA;
- Khidmat Card for Persons with Disability (PWD),
- Khidmat Card for Brick Kiln children,
- Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP),
- Prime Ministers’ National Health Programme (PMNHP),
- Punjab Employees Social Security Institution (PESSI), and
- Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC).
Three districts, Lahore, Rahim Yar Khan, and Sargodha were selected to observe the implementation of programmes at the local level. It was a great success story of the Urban Unit as it completed the project within the stipulated time-frame and limited budget. The Urban Unit team was trained by an International Consultant from World Bank, arranged by GIZ Pakistan. The team visited the three districts, and qualitative research was conducted. The Key Informant Interview (KII) and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were employed as the primary research tool, as suggested in CODI by ISPA.
The comprehensive report with findings and recommendations will be released soon by the GIZ Pakistan which will help evaluate, benchmark and upscale the performance and redesigning the social protection system in Punjab, in particular, and in Pakistan, in general.
The Urban Unit not only contributed to uplifting the social protection system in Punjab but also contributed to many other policy-making and decision making. For instance, the Urban Unit prepared Punjab’s first ever Urban and Peri-Urban Forest Policy (Draft), 2019. The Urban Unit also developed various decision systems and monitoring dashboards. One of the mega projects of the Urban Unit is the Punjab Spatial Strategy which is recently approved by the provincial cabinet of Punjab.
© 2019 Dr Ghulam Mohey-ud-din. The author is an Urban Economist at the Urban Unit, Government of Punjab (and was the Lead Researcher in the Social Protection (GIZ) project) (Article written on 30 June, 2019) Author can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org