By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:02:00 05/14/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines fares poorly in comparison to most of its Asian neighbors in the provision of basic social protection like health care, child protection or cash subsidy to the poor and elderly, according to a new index developed by the Asian
The ADB's social protection index (SPI), which was launched on Wednesday, aims to give governments and international agencies a new tool to assess and compare the social protection efforts of 31 countries throughout Asia and the Pacific region.
It measures the extent to which these countries provide welfare, labor market, social security, health insurance, micro-credit, child protection, targeted education, and health support programs to their citizens, especially those living below the poverty line.
Based on the SPI, measured between zero and 1.0, the Philippines had a score of only 0.21, way below the average of 0.35 percent for 31 Asian countries.
It ranked 22nd out of 31 countries measured.
Among the countries with scores higher than average were Japan (0.96), South Korea (0.76), India (0.46) and China (0.45) while the average performers were Vietnam (0.38), Malaysia (0.35), Bangladesh (0.33) and Indonesia (0.33).
The Philippines, on the other hand, joined other underperformers Laos (0.19), Pakistan (0.07) and Cambodia (0.19).
While Japan had the highest score among all countries, Papua New Guinea had the lowest (0.01).
But one of the most striking results of the SPI study was the finding that the ability to provide appropriate social protection to a nation's citizens was not a question of the country's wealth.
Even though Japan and South Korea topped the list, countries considered relatively wealthy didn't always score higher than poorer neighbors.
While India and Pakistan had similar levels of per capita gross domestic product, they scored very differently on the SPI, with India as an over-performer versus regional average and Pakistan an under-performer.
The Philippines was among the countries mentioned in the study with a much higher score on human development index (HDI) than the SPI.
The study said there might be "little in the way of major pro-poor targeted programs in the Philippines.” On the other hand, the country's social insurance system was only for the formal sector, it noted.
For countries where the HDI was relatively high but social protection seemed to be lagging, the study said: "By virtue of good HDI values, these countries could be receptive to thorough performance reviews of their existing social protection system leading to the formulation of new social protection programs.“
On average, countries in the region spent just under five percent of their gross domestic product on social protection and achieved an overall average coverage level of 35 percent of key target groups, which included the unemployed, elderly, poor, and disabled.
Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.