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Social Protection

Building social protection floors and comprehensive social security systems

Arab States

Updated by Christina Behrendt on 03.08.2011

Overview Social Security in the Arab States

All Arab countries in the region provide some forms of social security coverage. In most countries, pension schemes provide old age, survivor, disability and work injury benefits. Social security faces a variety of challenges, some of which are common to many countries in the region. Although economic performance has been relatively favourable in large parts of the region, economic growth has not fully translated into a sufficient increase in quality employment and better social protection. While across the region, women's labour force participation rates are rapidly increasing, female labour force participation is still low by international standards. Unemployment and underemployment, namely of women and young people, are likely to have effects on Arab societies; human capital in the short and in the long run. This is particularly relevant for those parts of the region which struggle with current or past political and economic crises.  As a consequence, high (and, in some countries, growing) informality and an associated lack of social protection coverage leave a large proportion of the population vulnerable. The extension of social protection to uncovered groups of the population is therefore a major concern.

In most countries of the region, the existing social security schemes focus on the provision of pensions while other risks - such as unemployment, maternity or sickness - are not or only partly covered. Some of the existing pension insurance schemes in the region face challenges in terms of effectiveness, equity, sustainability and governance, while large groups of the population remain out of the scope of coverage. Another concern is access to affordable quality health care for the population. Non-contributory social security schemes, such as social assistance schemes, tend to be fragmented and weakly coordinated with contributory schemes. A number of countries in the region have embarked on initiatives which aim at consolidating and strengthening social insurance schemes, introducing new branches and extending coverage. Likewise, reforms of non-contributory schemes focus on enhancing targeting mechanisms and the effectiveness of the schemes.