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SOCIAL PROTECTION: VERITABLE MEANS OF BRIDGING INEQUALITY

Opinion

By: Aderonke Dada

As the world changes with unprecedented speed, only a society that can address socio-economic challenges of protecting poor and vulnerable households from prevailing economic shocks can successfully bridge the gap of inequality and build peaceful coexistence among its citizenry. Undoubtedly, Social protection has been neglected for Social security over the decades. It is a broad term that covers both formal and informal areas of protection whereas social security covers only the contributory protection system, mostly of the formal sectors of employment.

Apart from the capacity of social protection to bridge the gap of inequality, it also guarantees relief from poverty, provides measures to better anticipate and cope with risks, invest in human capital to promote productive activities and address power imbalances that encourage, create and sustain vulnerabilities in the society. Some scholars describe Social Protection as a set of policies and programmes designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting efficient labour markets, diminishing people’s exposure to risks and enhancing their capacity to manage economic and social risks such as unemployment, social exclusion, sickness, disability and old age. It is a set of interventions that widen access to health care, quality education, housing, transportation and other social goods and services which the poor and vulnerable might not have easy access to due to disparities in the distribution of economic assets and income mechanisms.

A socially protected man can be easily governed and loyal compared to a poor and vulnerable man who suffers social exclusion. Research has shown that a set of interventions which enable access to social goods and services reduce inequality and by extension encourage people to adhere strictly to lay down procedures that would guarantee their continuous access to social goods and services. Life is said to be worthless without good means of fulfilling one’s dreams and ambition. Recent findings showed that social protection, either through contributive or non-contributive means has rekindled the hope of many people, and provided the level playing field for the less privileged and child of nobody to pursue their dreams and become somebody in a competitive society.

Contributive social protection on one hand is a kind of formal security designed for workers and unemployed people such as health insurance, unemployment insurance, pension allowances, birth leave and the likes. Non constructive ones are interventions targeting the needy, extreme poor and vulnerable that take the form of support and assistance towards free access to goods and services, cash transfers, food vouchers and the likes.

The United Nation disclosed that social protection is now a challenge, not merely a set of economic policies in the workplace and in the area of production, rather it is one of the key responses to reducing lifelong consequences of poverty and other parameters that encourage, create and sustain inequality in the society. Little wonder generational poverty is often observed in societies experiencing social exclusion and a low income cycle. Social protection programs help connect families with quality health care, education, nutritious foods, among other social facilities that will promote well-being and an enabling environment for all children, irrespective of their age and family background.

The point is that, in this modern time and age, social protection has gone beyond being seen as a privilege. It is now the duty of the government at all levels to ensure the basic fundamental right of people such as the right to quality education, health care, housing etc. Without gain saying, Social protection at its best promotes and sustains healthy and peaceful coexistence between the poor and the rich, society is obliged to provide access (conditional or unconditional) to basic needs to make life worth living and fulfilling for all otherwise the rich may become target of survival by illegal means for the poor and vulnerable.

Poor and vulnerable are in need of social protection in the form of support towards promoting economic growth and sustainable development and micro economic activities keep increasing day by day mainly through social assistance and support which has positive multiplying effect on the aggregate economy. Some people are productive and willing but idle and incapacitated due to lack of resources. With the help of social protection, resources are redistributed with which support and assistance are extended to resuscitate and bring people back to work so as to give back to the society. Social protection programmes therefore help to better anticipate risk associated with society experiencing social exclusion and proffers ways to mitigate or cope with such risks so as to diminish people’s exposure to risks and enhance their capacity to manage economic and social risks.

Although poverty is said to be the primary structural cause of inequality but, the principal contributory factor is the insufficient fund and intervention to protect and provide social assistance and support for the large informal sector that is not covered by social insurance schemes that are usually inform of conditional cash transfer, free school meals, tuition and learning materials for poor and disable households and children, free health care, education, psychosocial support to survivors of violence and abuse, public works programmes for youth, skill training, micro financing and the likes.

Considering the deep seated poverty situation in the country and in a bid to bridge the gap of inequality, the government had established the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development which established building blocks for effective delivery of interventions, livelihoods support and assistance to extreme poor and vulnerable households. The beauty of social protection programmes prompts governments at all levels to increase expenditure yearly for social services and assistance programmes but still inadequate.

As a matter of fact, it has been proven that without comprehensive database of the set targets, it might be difficult to record successful implementation of the programmes, and to achieve the set objectives, Federal government of Nigeria designed National Social Safety-Nets Programmes (NASSP) and established National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) as a coordinating and response platform with the responsibility of ensuring existence and the provision of comprehensive and accurate Single Social Register of all the poor and vulnerable households population across the country and by extension empowering States to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for establishment of State Operations Coordinating Unit (SOCU).

It is a thing of pride to make known that under the present administration-led by Prince Dapo Abiodun, NASSCO had setup State Operations Coordinating Unit in Ogun State which spare head identification of Poor and Vulnerable Households using geographic and Community Based Targeting (CBT) approach and further transmission of the same to National Social Register (NSR) as a database for planning and execution of programmes at all levels.

According to Ogun SOCU Coordinator, Mr. `Tunde Adebiyi, Ogun State has so far generated data of 78,804 poor and vulnerable households and 264,830 individuals, still updating its social register for the State which would enable this category of residents benefit from the cash transfer intervention in NASSP and at the same time, any other Social Safety-Nets (SSN) interventions. Worthy of note is the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ogun SOCU and Ogun State Health Insurance Agency (OGHIA) on mining of the State Social Register, being a database for Poor and Vulnerable Households (PVHHs) for citizens of the State to benefit from the basic health care provision fund of the National Health Insurance Scheme. So far, a total number of 38,618 PVHHs, consisting of 189,688 members across 19 Local government areas are expected to benefit and the data would be upgraded from time to time.

Similarly, 38,688 members of different households in the State Register across 18Local government Areas were selected to participate in the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Scheme in the State. Details of all suitable applicants had been forwarded to National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO) for validation and consideration for the scheme.

*Dada, is an Information Officer with Ogun SOCU

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