Social Protection in Asia: Research Findings and Policy Lessons

Social protection is once again high on the international policy agenda as the multiple crises of recent years have devastated the livelihoods of millions already living in or close to poverty, and increased vulnerability and uncertainty for millions more. The Social Protection in Asia (SPA) research and policy networking programme arose in similar circumstances, following the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s. That crisis affected many of the countries in the region that had been held up as models of market-led development. It highlighted the risks of rapid but unequal growth, particularly when unaccompanied by state provision of basic social and economic infrastructure or by redistributive policies that could generate more inclusive development. The experience sent a clear message that residual ex post safety nets are inadequate responses in the context of a global economy in which economic crises of various kinds appear endemic (Cook et al., 2003). Instead, countries seeking to compete in increasingly integrated global markets need well designed, broad-based ex ante measures which help their populations cope with the risks associated with market liberalisation and globalisation. These lessons paved the way for a shift from thinking about social protection as piecemeal and residual interventions, to envisaging it as a more systemic and inclusive response to risk and vulnerability.

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