World Social Protection Report 2017-19

Thailand: A regional example in social protection

Despite significant coverage gaps, social protection is gaining momentum in Asia’s political agenda. Thailand’s universal programs, such as the old age allowance (OAA) and the Universal Health-Care Coverage Scheme (UCS), are positively referenced in the region.

News | 30 November 2017
Bangkok/Thailand (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization published its flagship World Social Protection Report 2017/19 which provides an inventory of social protection worldwide, covering the state of benefits for maternity, unemployment, old age, healthcare, etc.

Thailand’s UCS and OAA are regional models for social protection coverage. In the last 14 years, UCS has contributed to decreases in infant and child mortality, HIV infections, effects of diabetes, and workers’ sick days. OAA has also reduced elderly poverty.

Graeme Buckley, ILO Thailand Director noted, “The fact that every Thai citizen above 60 is entitled to a monthly benefit and all Thai citizens can access free healthcare is an inspiration for other countries, demonstrating this is both possible and affordable for emerging nations.”

Adequacy must be improved

Despite universal coverage, inadequate allowances, like 600 baht for a 60 year old, cannot meet basic living costs. This forces the elderly to continue working or depend on their families for survival. Indexing the allowance to the consumer price index or similar benchmarks will improve income security in old age. Thailand also needs to keep extending its social insurance coverage so more people can access contributory schemes, which provide higher pensions.

To prepare for a fast ageing society, which signals rising costs of pensions and healthcare, Thailand should monitor the sustainability of its system. Despite growing public concerns with rising expenditure, social protection expenditure in Thailand (3.7% GDP) is actually only half that of Vietnam and China (both 6.3% GDP).

Besides the elderly, other groups in the population still have gaps in protection. On that score, the introduction of the Child Support Grant is a step in the right direction. Launched in 2015, over 150,000 children between zero and three today receive a grant. However, this still leaves nearly 4 million children under five in Thailand not covered by any social protection program.

4 billion people worldwide denied social protection

Thailand’s coverage levels are not representative of the region. Effective coverage of old age pensions, among others, in fact vary widely: from 100% in Mongolia to 3% in Cambodia.

Significant progresses notwithstanding, the report shows the human right to social security is not yet a reality for the vast majority of people. Less than half the global population is effectively covered by at least one social benefit, while the remaining 55 per cent–4 billion people–are left unprotected.

“The lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to ill-health, poverty, inequality and social exclusion throughout their lifecycle. While many countries have come a long way in strengthening their social protection systems, major efforts are still necessary to ensure that the right to social protection becomes a reality for all,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

For more information, please contact: Nuno Meira Simoes da Cunha, Senior Technical Specialist on Social Protection, International Labour Organization at cunhan@ilo.org.