Urban Social Protection Strategy and Action Plan in Bangladesh

The rapid industrialization, transformation in pattern of economic activities and disaster induced hardship in rural areas have driven massive urbanization in Bangladesh. The rapid rise in urban population is now a global phenomenon and Bangladesh experiences one of the highest rates of urbanization. This rapid growth of urban population in Bangladesh has taken place during the last four decades. Rapid urbanization has, therefore, serious implications for urban poverty trends and patterns.

The constitutional provision of the right to social security and the people-centric socio-political commitment of the Government lead to formulation of the National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) of Bangladesh. The core of the NSSS is programme coordination among the implementing ministries and consolidation of programmes along a lifecycle framework with special focus on urban social protection.

In Bangladesh, even though income poverty is much lower in urban areas, there are emerging vulnerabilities for the urban poor: social insecurity, housing, tenancy rights, health, sanitation, nutrition, etc. Research shows that the condition of life of the urban poor is normally worse than those of rural poor. The urban poverty is often induced by lack of wage employment and low-paid informal sector works.

Lack of access to housing, basic utility services, education and health services are some of the problems suffered by urban poor. Their problem is further exacerbated by violence, physical and psycho-social insecurity weak social network, and low voice and power. Therefore, the Government appreciates the need to extend social protection coverage to the urban poor and vulnerable people.

However, the NSSS does not provide any specific guidelines regarding the detailed actions for tackling urban problems. The NSSS leaves the matter on further studies and situation analysis. Therefore, the Cabinet Division and the General Economic Division, with support from the SSPS Programme undertake measures to formulate an urban diagnostic studies before preparing the present Urban Social Protection Strategy and Action Plans.

A number of meetings of the social protection focal points were held to devise a framework of the action plan. A small committee was also formed to supervise the overall process of formulating the document. The action plan is prepared for coming three years till 2022, when most of the major reform proposals of the NSSS are expected to be attained.

The urban social protection action plan has three dimensions, namely the programmes to be expanded in urban setting, labour market intervention and the social insurance. The strategic direction of urban social protection will be to import programmes from the rural aeras to the urban areas, to introduce social insurance and to devise programmes measures to tackle the challenges of urban poor living in slum like situation. The broader goal of the urban strategy is to integrate and merge the system into the overall national social protection system of the country. The document provides specific action plans for different ministries having direct or indirect involvement in urban social protection.

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