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"Poverty, Inequality and Social Protection in Southeast Asia: An Introduction", Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2014. pp. 1-17

29 Apr 2014



UNRISD is pleased to have permission from the Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, to post the article on its website.

Social protection is now widely accepted as encompassing a set of programmes designed to assist individuals and households in maintaining basic consumption and living standards when confronted by a range of contingencies across the life course (including ill-health, unemployment and old age). While often considered a luxury available only to rich countries, or confined to a small elite in the developing world formally employed in the public sector or in large private enterprises, this perception is now changing as access to social protection expands in middle and lower income countries. Contemporary definitions relevant to developing countries generally include three main categories of programme. First, non-contributory social assistance programmes aim to raise the living standards of poor or vulnerable people through transfers in cash or in kind. Second, social insurance, generally linked to employment and often contributory (although also financed from general tax revenues), provides protection against the risk of income loss due to life's normal contingencies. The third domain of social protection consists of various labour market policies, for example, to regulate working conditions including safety and hygiene, collective bargaining, minimum wage policies and the prohibition of child labour. Although the provision of social services is generally considered to be a separate domain of social policy, the conceptual distinction between the supply of essential services - such as healthcare, education and child protection - and demand side interventions introduced in part to enable households to access such services, is far from clear. Both are critical components of any system designed to provide minimal social protection to a population.

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This article first appeared in the Journal of Southeast Asian Economies, Vol. 31, No. 1, April 2014, pp. 1-17. Posted here with the kind permission of the publisher, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.