OVER half of the elderly in the Philippines have no pension or social protection despite progress in recent years, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO).
In its World Social Protection Report 2017/19, the ILO lauded the Duterte administration’s efforts to increase benefit levels of senior citizens receiving contributory pension and to increase the social pension coverage of indigent senior citizens.
It noted though that even with the progress, 40 percent of Filipino senior citizens are still left without income security even as it pointed out that social protection remains one of the major agenda of the administration as reflected in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.
Recently, the Social Security System (SSS) provided a P1,000 monthly increase in the pension of retired Social Security System (SSS) members.
It plans to give another P1,000 increase at the latest by 2022 or at the earliest by 2019, depending on the status of the SSS’ fund.
The Philippine Development Plan has identified adopting and institutionalizing the Social Protection Floor as one of the strategies to achieve universal social protection under a strategic framework to reduce vulnerability of individuals and families.
Specific strategies include establishing an unemployment insurance system, enhancing social protection for the informal sector, improving the social pension system, expanding health insurance packages and strengthening mechanisms to ensure enrolment in the social security system, among others.
Further, it also highlights the need to address implementation issues on convergence, planning and mainstreaming at the local level and better data collection.
The Philippines, the report pointed out, is not the only country that has serious gaps in its social protection system, saying that only 29 percent of the world population enjoy comprehensive social protection and more than 1 out of 2 persons have no protection at all.
As such, it said, many were left vulnerable to poverty, inequality and social exclusion, constituting a major obstacle to economic and social development for any country.
A comprehensive social protection, the report added, is considered the engine of the world economy, yet Asia clearly lags behind when it comes to the protection of its population.
“The decades-long development model dominating the region prioritized economic growth at the expense of redistributive policies. Consequently, a large share of the population are denied the right to social protection,” it said.
“This is in contrast to countries like China, Thailand, Mongolia, Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste which have considerably expanded their coverage through the use of universal tax funded pensions,” according to the report.
Khalid Hassan, Director of ILO Manila Country Office, said the Philippines should follow the path that China and other countries have taken in providing social protection to their citizens.
“The ILO’s new report shows many countries, regionally and across the world, are prioritizing their social protection systems. We think this is a good time for Philippines to follow the same path and extend protection to its elderly through the launch of a universal pension,” Hassan added.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL