Bangladesh is urbanising rapidly. This brings many positives and supports national development, yet evidence shows that many urban residents experience poverty while others remain vulnerable to shocks that can threaten their wellbeing. Urbanisation is throwing up a range of challenges, which the Government is committed to tackling for the benefit of our citizens. This will require support from across government, including from the social protection sector.
To date, the national social protection system has been aligned mainly to the needs of the rural population: while 30 percent of rural residents benefit from social protection, the system reaches only 9 percent of the urban population. While continued efforts to increase the coverage of the rural poor and vulnerable population will continue, the Government is also mindful of the need to bring more of the poor and vulnerable population living in urban areas under the umbrella of social protection. Across the world, countries deal with urban poverty by providing equal access to social protection benefits across the entire population. Schemes like old age pensions, disability benefits and child benefits are provided to both urban and rural areas in equal measure.
A similar strategy will be pursued in Bangladesh. As the priority social protection schemes for the elderly, children, vulnerable women and people with disabilities are expanded, it will be ensured that urban residents have equal access.
The Government also understands that new proposals in NSPS such as the childcare proposals and the NSIS will initially benefit urban residents most owing to the location of the formal economic activities. Therefore, special efforts will be made to expand these benefits to the rural population. This is a longer term effort and the Government will review experiences of countries like Brazil and Mexico to determine how the scope of social insurance schemes can be expanded for the rural population.
Through this strategy of equal access, the Government will inject a significant sum of cash into the hands of poor and vulnerable urban residents. This, in turn, will provide an important economic stimulus in urban areas, which will further reduce poverty and create a more dynamic business environment.
However, social protection cannot resolve all the problems of the urban population. Therefore, the Government will further develop policies in areas such as town planning, housing, health, education, water and sanitation, and transport to ensure that comprehensive support is given to the most vulnerable families, complementing our social protection initiatives.