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El Salvador

Updated by Victoria Giroud-Castiella on 11.02.2014

The democratization process that followed the end of the armed conflict in El Salvador produced better conditions for social policy. Prior to the war, social security, education, and health policies had been characterized by limited coverage; after the war, however, a social assistance approach targeting the vulnerable populations emerged.

The Five-Year Development Plan (Plan Quinquenal de Desarrollo, PQD), launched in 2009, prompted the central government’s long-term policies and allocated funds to social programmes aimed at reducing poverty. In 2010, the health system underwent a major reform to strengthen the stewardship role of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance (Ministerio de Salud Pública y Asistencia Social, MSPAS), develop human resources and the capacity for research and analysis of information, build comprehensive and integrated health services networks, and develop mechanisms of intersectoral action and citizen participation.  

The Universal Social Protection System (Sistema de Protección Social Universal, SPSU), included in the PQD 2010–2014, was conceived as a social policy tool based on the human rights approach to promote human development. It was designed to solve El Salvador’s main social problems, particularly poverty, inequality in income distribution, gender inequality, and social exclusion. It has two distinct and complementary components, one contributory and the other non-contributory. The contributory social protection system consists of the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (Instituto Salvadoreño del Seguro Social, ISSS), the Teacher Welfare Insurance, the Military Health Services, and the private pension programme. The non-contributory social protection system includes the following programmes: Temporary Income Support (Apoyo Temporal al Ingreso), School Nutrition and Health (Alimentación y Salud Escolar),  Distribution of School Kits (Dotación de Paquetes Escolares), Our Elders’ Rights (Nuestros Mayores Derechos), Women’s City (Ciudad Mujer), Solidarity in Rural Communities (Comunidades Solidarias Rurales), and Solidarity in Urban Communities (Comunidades Solidarias Urbanas), among other programmes aimed at caring for the needs of vulnerable populations.

Over the last few years, social security expenditure has increased from 1.1 per cent of GDP in 1998 to 4.3 per cent of GDP in 2009. Public spending per capita on social security was US$127 in 2009. According to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s 2010 Statistical Bulletin, the number of workers contributing to the public and private sectors covered by the ISSS was 695,749. In the same year, the Institute totalled 823,015 contributors.

Furthermore, the development of social assistance programmes led to better coverage of the population living in poverty. According to the Technical Secretariat of the Presidency, the SPSU and its programmes benefitted 4.3 million people between 2009 and 2012.

However, in 2008, 14.5 per cent of the population aged over 65 years had access to a pension and only 19 per cent of the employed population contributed to social security in El Salvador.