Social protection

Lessons from the steppes: Mongolia's model social insurance system

As a role model for social insurance systems, Mongolia, with the help of the ILO, shares its efficient single window system for social services with other countries in South East Asia.

Feature | Mongolia | 01 September 2015
BANGKOK (ILO News) - For any young couple, the birth of a first child is a momentous occasion. At their remote farmstead on the Mongolian steppes, Batjav and his wife were celebrating the birth of their baby boy.
Batjav's herd of goats

Although they are young the couple follow the traditional lifestyle of Mongolian nomadic herders, living in a ger, a traditional nomadic home, and keeping animals, including long-haired goats.

However, a week after the baby’s birth Batjav did one less traditional - but very important - thing; he got on a motorbike and rode off across the grasslands to register the birth of his son and apply for the universal child money programme and maternity benefits for his wife.

Before having her baby Batjav’s wife joined Mongolia’s social insurance scheme, which is open to herders on a voluntary basis. Her contributions to the social insurance fund meant she was eligible for maternity benefits equivalent to four months’ salary. In years to come the system will also give her a pension, so she is not a burden to her son when he grows up.

In the past, rural Mongolians often had to travel long distances, and visit several government offices
In the past claiming such social benefits was difficult and impractical for herders like Batjav and his family, living in a remote, rural area, with animal flocks that could not be left unattended for long. Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, meaning that rural Mongolians often had to travel long distances, and visit several government offices.

But this changed with the introduction of One Stop Shops, or OSS services in 2007, by the Government of Mongolia, with the help of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

The OSS gathers a number of government ministries in one place, both in the capital Ulaanbaatar and at district – or soum - level. It offers a range of services such as social welfare, social insurance, employment counseling and civil registration.

More than two third of visitors at the One Stop Shop are women
“Before people had to go to many doors to get one service. Now, they come to one door to get many services,” said O. Toivogoo, Head of the Government Office in Bayankhongor province.

At his local OSS office Batjav filled in a few forms and handed over some documents. In return he received a benefits card for his child and a confirmation form for maternity benefits. Both benefits will be transferred to his bank account every month. The process was quick and easy, allowing him to get home before the end of the day.

All Mongolia’s provinces, and most of the districts, now have OSS services, and for those who live in really remote areas the Government has launched a mobile OSS van, which brings officials and the services to the door of the ger.

Government officers from different departments offer their services at people's homes
Mongolia also operates a mandatory social health insurance scheme, and a number of other social welfare programmes to support vulnerable groups. Policies have recently been introduced to promote employment and local development.

Mongolia’s approach caught the attention of other countries in South East Asia. So, in 2014, a study trip was organized to help some ASEAN countries learn from each other’s experiences of running a single window system for social services. Representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand took part.

The trip was arranged by the ILO’s ‘Promoting and Building Social Protection and Employment Services for Vulnerable Groups, Learning from ASEAN (MAPS Project), supported by the ILO/Japan Multi-bilateral Programme, and the joint ILO-UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) Project on South-South Triangular Cooperation and promotion of Social Protection Floors.

Mongoalia welcomes representatives from Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand
“You would never think that Mongolia, the land of nomadic herders and the world’s most sparsely populated country, would have anything useful to share. But Mongolia actually has an advanced social security system and offers a good example of the single window approach,” said H.E. Sann Vathana, Council for Agriculture and Rural Development of Cambodia.

Following the study visit, Cambodia began a pilot of social service delivery mechanisms in two provinces, using lessons learned from Mongolia’s success with delegated decision making. The Indonesian delegates proposed to apply some of Mongolia’s experience in dealing with vast distances to expand their own Single Window approach to all provinces. The experts from Thailand also expressed interest in the decentralization of public services.

“Success of a Social Protection Floor relies on accessibility of social services and benefits, an area where Mongolia has invested a lot,” said Ms Celine Peyron Bista, Chief Technical Advisor of the MAPS Project. “Thanks to this project, countries in ASEAN were given for first time the opportunity to learn from Mongolia’s experience.”