Social security in Pakistan

Brick kiln workers get citizenship documents © ILO

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South Asia is still home to the largest group of population left without any kind of protection against social risks. Countries like Pakistan still face today the daunting challenge of extending social security benefits to all workers operating in the informal economy which account for more than 70% of the total labour force. With a critical mass of poor people dependent upon informal activities there is obviously the need for efficient protection mechanisms that can reduce their particular vulnerability to various shocks and stresses.

Paradoxically, and although recognizing that workers operating in the informal economy are prone to a wider range and higher frequency of risks, the existing social protection systems that are in place often exclude this section of the population while catering only for the needs of the formal economy workers. So far, the excluded groups remain exposed to the multiple risks affecting their daily lives and inhibiting their development initiatives. Among them, the most disadvantaged groups such as the poor women, the elderly, disabled people and migrant workers often remain caught in a continuing cycle of poverty and vulnerability. In recent years, it has been increasingly recognized that vulnerability was not only a component of poverty, but also one of its major causes. The lack of means to cope with some shocks and risks may often result in pushing people farther down the poverty trap. But the incapacity to deal successfully with risks go far beyond a state of deprivation, it has also other negative effects in terms of human and social capital, further restricting opportunities to improve working and living conditions.

In the new global environment, it has become even more important to stress the need for national systems of social security that are essential to social and economic development processes, and in a broader sense to the achievement of social justice. For a country like Pakistan still trying to bridge a huge social protection gap, the central policy challenge would probably be to design pluralistic, social security systems that combine a range of protective mechanisms in an effective way to provide adequate levels of protection to all groups of the society on the basis of universal access to at least some minimum level of protection for all.

The ILO has been providing assistance to Pakistan in the areas of:
  • Policy, legal and regulatory context for social security and social protection in Pakistan;
  • Institutional arrangements for social security and social protection, both governmental and non-governmental;
  • Social security and social protection schemes and mechanisms that could be made available to the population;
  • Social security extension plans presently being considered under the various development programmes adopted at the national level such as Pakistan Baitul Mal and Benazir Income Support Programme and at the provincial level such as Benazir Bhutoo Shaheed Youth Development Programme in Sindh.

Key resources

  1. World Social Protection Report 2014-15

    Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice