Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Sustainable and Just Social Protection in Southeast Asia

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Economies

Sustainable and Just Social Protection in Southeast Asia

Article excerpt

I. Background

The 1997-98 Asian crisis has taught many Southeast Asian countries about the necessity to create a social protection system. The 2008-09 global crisis has also reminded them on the need to establish the system. Asher (2010) argued that the 2008-09 global crisis had again provided a challenge and an opportunity to strengthen social protection and mainstream it to the overall economic development in Asia. Furthermore, the current slowdown of the global economic situation, coupled with the rising frequency and severity of natural disasters because of global climate change, has further emphasized the relevance of social protection systems in the inter-connected global development.

On the other hand, as noted by the European Commission (2012), modern economies have also raised the demand for a social protection system from the governments for their citizens. There are two challenges for this system. The first is equity issues, such as how to create justice among citizens, with broadening the coverage of the social protection system as a policy recommendation. The second is financial issues, i.e. to create a financially sustainable system without placing a heavy burden on the government's budget.

The important question now is the funding of such a system. The social protection system should be financially sustainable and should be able to last for decades without suffering from rising debt. How much should the government intervene in creating a social protection system?

To what extent should society participate in the creation of social protection? Should individuals and families bear the responsibility to contribute to this system? Who are the vulnerable groups that will receive this kind of help?

The system should also be able to create justice among the people, though the term may be very subjective. However, subjectivity matters much in politics, and politics is one of the important determinants of a social protection system in a country. Sen (2009) even argued that justice should be one of the important objectives of economic development. Therefore, as discussed in Handayani (2012) and Hujo and Cook (2012), development of a social protection system should be seen in the context of the overall social, political, and economic development in each country. The challenge is that the social protection system is still underutilized, though it has started being developed in Asia and the Pacific.

The first objective of this special edition is to document the current status on the issue of a "sustainable and just social protection system" in Southeast Asian countries. What are the conditions and policies on this issue? The second, and the main feature of the edition, is what the author(s) think is the best system for the country. Nevertheless, because of certain constraints, only five countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, are presented in this edition. Each article focuses on what the author argues as the most relevant issue in the country: Muliadi Widjaja searches for placement-support social assistance in Indonesia; Ragayah Haji Mat Zin focuses on the efforts to create a Malaysian social protection system in an advanced equitable society; Chew Soon Beng examines employment-based social protection in Singapore; Yongyuth Chalamwong and Jidapa Meepien analyse and discuss programmes to reduce poverty and create justice in Thailand; and Giang Thanh Long concentrates on the poor and vulnerable groups in Vietnam.

This article starts by discussing what social protection is, including what it covers. It is followed by an examination of a continuum framework to understand the social protection system in a country, mainly using the experiences of North American and advanced European countries. Next is the discussion on the systems in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. The social protection systems in the five selected countries in Southeast Asia, presented in this edition, are analysed afterward in order to get some approximation as to where the five countries lie in the continuum framework. …

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