Data & Indicators


SDG 1.3.1 Effective coverage



Public expenditure on healthcare



Public expenditure on social protection



Total population



Labour force



Poverty rate



GDP per capita


Sources: ILO, World Social Protection Database, based on SSI; ISSA/SSA, Social Security Programs Throughout the World; ILOSTAT, ECLAC, IMF, WHO, WB, UNDP, UNICEF, completed with national data sources. 2020 or latest available year.


Situation and Priorities

Social protection situation

Social protection is a right enshrined in the constitution of Timor-Leste, and this commitment is reflected in the broad range of existing national policies and programs. Since independence in 2002, the country has progressed in building citizenship, linking obligations to social rights, and investing in a comprehensive national social protection system.

The National Strategy for Social Protection of Timor-Leste 2021-2030 was approved in 2022. This is the first strategic document in this area developed in the country, defined around three strategic objectives: reducing poverty, improving and expand social security for workers and promote institutional development. With ILO support, the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion approved the first implementation plan 2022-2023 and first annual implementation report. The MSSI is also establishing a governance structure for coordination and integration of the social protection sector, with technical support of ILO.

Timor-Leste has established by Law the General Contributory Social Security Scheme in 2016, which entered into force in 2017, representing a major step forward in the progressive organization of a social security system in Timor-Leste. The scheme includes pensions for old age, invalidity and survivors, allowances for maternity/paternity/adoption and work accidents. In 2022, there was 134,039 workers and 4,479 employers registered in the contributory social security system in Timor-Leste.

Non-contributory system in Timor-Leste includes a quasi-universal social pension for elderly (60 years old and above) and a social pension for people unable to work (18 years old and above). Both social pensions amounts were increased from US$57 to US$60 in 2024. In case of old-age pension, the benefit amount has an additional for older people with people between 70 and 79 years old receiving US$80 and people 80 years old and above receiving US$100. The non-contributory system also includes a conditional cash transfer for poor and vulnerable families with children, pensions for ex-combatants, martyrs, and their families, and a near-universal school meal program, as well as other support programs, including program for the recovery of victims of natural disasters, program to support to victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence.

The government of Timor-Leste continues committed to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, particularly on achieving target 1.3 of sustainable development goal 1, on poverty eradication, aimed at implementing a national social protection system, and target 3.8 of Goal 3, on good health and well-being, aimed at achieving universal health coverage.

However, a considerable gap remains between those desires and the reality on the ground. In Timor-Leste, only 30.6 per cent of the population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit, while the remaining 69.4 per cent – as many as 930,262 – are left unprotected. The population effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit in Timor-Leste is lower that the Asia and Pacific regional estimate of 44.1 percent.

The approval of a basic law for social protection is a top priority for social protection in Timor-Leste. The MSSI and the government of Timor-established a task force to move forward the organization and definition of the basis of the social protection system in the country. ILO is providing technical assistance to MSSI.

COVID-19 and other crises

The government of Timor-Leste has reiterated the commitment to social protection as a human right and society’s primary line of defense. The COVID-19 pandemic and the floods in 2022, have demonstrated how a well-functioning social protection system can protect individuals throughout life and economies by acting as a social as economic stabilizer in times of crises. The government economic recovery plan reaffirmed that “human development must be the epicentre of the economic policy with social protection, education and health as the main pillars of human capital development, important for the functioning of a modern society and the country’s long-term economic and sustainable development”.

The government of Timor-Leste ensured a stimulus package of US$ 150 million (approximately 10.5% of GDP) to respond to the crisis, and placed a strong emphasis on supporting livelihoods through social security and social assistance. A new cash transfer benefit of US$100 was introduced to ensure minimum consumption levels and it was delivered to around 300,000 families for two months. This programme was ten times larger than any previous programme, and was successfully rolled out thanks to the support and coordination of development partners. The ILO played a leading role, managing coordination between agencies and supporting the rollout of a programme in which none of the population has mobile bank accounts.

Timor-Leste established a support measure for informal economy workers, granting an extraordinary subsidy of US$ 36 for 3 months (from October to December 2020), to all self-employed workers and the informal economy not yet registered in the Social Security. This government measure revealed an effort to support workers who were never before covered, aimed at strengthening their capacity to face future risks.

Measures to maintain employment for workers registered in the social security scheme were also created. This included paying 60% of the wages for formal economy workers placed on reduced working hours (approx. 30,000 people), waiving utility bills and social security contributions for low- income households for three months, and introducing a benefit for students living in outside the country.

Government and social partner priorities

The Council of Ministers approved the National Strategy for Social Protection 2021-2030 in November 2022. The strategy promotes an integrated social protection system, seeking to expand coverage and scope, and maximise the reduction of poverty and vulnerability. It also aims to consolidate the rights to social security and social assistance, as well as inclusive access to social services, education and health. Strategic objectives include:

  • Reducing poverty
  • Improving and expanding social security for workers
  • Institutional development

ILO Projects and Programmes


The ILO activities were planned into the first Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) 2016-2020 for Timor-Leste, and continued into the second DWCP 2022-2025, including a large social protection component in both cases.

The ILO has been supporting the social protection sector in Timor-Leste, based on a tripartite engagement of partners of integrated approach that combines different projects and sources of funds to achieve common goals, in particular through Action Portugal, three years project whose first phase started in 2015 and is now in the third phase (2022-2025).

Please see below for more detail the main results achieved.

Funding gaps / Support the ILO


Timor-Leste’s component under ACTION Portugal to cover 36 months of implementation (2022-2025)



Technical expert assistance up to 36 months, and administrative staff contribution to support the project



Build the capacity of the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Inclusion to effectively implement, monitoring and evaluate the National Strategy for Social Protection


Build the capacity of the National Institute of Social Security to effectively administer contributory social security programmes


Build capacity through regional trainings, workshops, and study tours to countries with relevant experiences.


Build a culture of social protection through awareness-raising campaigns on the rights and benefits available to citizens

News and Events



ILO Experts

Markus Ruck
Senior Social Protection Specialist
Nuno Castro
Social Protection Activity Coordinator - ACTION/Portugal Project
Rita Maria Sousa Fernandes
Senior Technical Officer, Social Protection
Child/family , Disability , Maternity , Old-age , Survivors