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Social Protection

Building social protection floors and comprehensive social security systems


Updated by Loveleen De , Victoria Giroud-Castiella on 08.09.2015

The Philippines has experienced strong economic growth in the last decade, with an average GDP growth rate of 5.4 per cent, which peaked at 7.2 per cent in 2013. Nonetheless, the country spent only 1.6 per cent of its GDP on social protection programmes during the same year. Moreover, the benefits of growth have not been distributed evenly and only a relatively small portion of society has benefitted from it, leaving a substantial number of people poor or vulnerable.Unemployment and underemployment in the country are high, at 7.1 per cent and 19.3 per cent respectively in 2013. Philippines is also highly vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes and other natural disasters, which affect millions of people every year.

The Philippines intends to tackle the highly unequal distribution of income and make growth more inclusive, as set out in the ‘Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016’. The Plan puts emphasis on the provision of health care to all; enhancement of targeting systems covering the poor, near-poor and vulnerable groups; and greater social protection coverage for the latter.

In 2007, the government adopted an official definition and framework for social protection. Under Resolution No. 1 of the National Economic Development Authority - Social Development Committee (NEDA-SDC), social protection is defined as “policies and programs that seek to reduce poverty and vulnerability to risks and enhance the social status and rights of the marginalized by promoting and protecting livelihood and employment, protecting against hazards and sudden loss of income, and improving people’s capacity to manage risks”. Moreover, it defines four major components of social protection as social insurance, social welfare, social safety nets and labour market interventions.

1. Social insurance: Social protection in the Philippines was first introduced several years ago with schemes focussing on formal sector workers. The social insurance scheme for civil servants, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), was introduced in the 1930s. In the 1950s, the development of a social security scheme for the private sector, Social Security System (SSS), followed. Today both schemes, adjusted over time according to the needs of citizens, are still in place and provide pension, disability, death, work injury and other benefits to its members. Together with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), which currently provides health care benefits to approximately 80 per cent of the population, they constitute the major social insurance schemes in the country. The overall objective of these schemes is to mitigate social risks and eventually reach universal coverage, including of the informal sector.

2. Social welfare: These schemes target the indigent and marginalized groups, and provide in-cash and in-kind benefits, with the aim to reduce poverty and make the beneficiaries less vulnerable to risks. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) coordinates nine interventions in this area, of which three schemes, namely the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) and the National Community Driven Development Program (NCDDP), form the core interventions. The 4Ps constitutes a conditional cash transfer to poor families with children, with the families having to comply with health care and education related conditionalities.


3. Social safety nets: They are stop-gap mechanisms and urgent responses meant to provide immediate protection to displaced workers, survivors of calamities, and those vulnerable to socio-economic shocks. Support is offered in the form of subsidies such as DSWD's cash-for-work and food-for-work measures to victims of natural disasters, emergency loans and emergency employment programmes. The DOLE Integrated Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (DILEEP) provides vulnerable, displaced and unemployed workers with short-term employment at the minimum wage, accident and health insurance, safety and health orientation, and access to scholarships. It also provides entrepreneurship development assistance.

4. Labour market interventions: The last component aims at enhancing employment opportunities, improving skills of workers and offering livelihood support. These are mainly coordinated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and include skills development programmes, self-employment support, provision of labour market information, and career assistance services. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) provides vocational training, facilitates scholarships, develops standards and certifications. The Public Employment Service Offices (PESO) are a facility providing different kinds of employment services.


In a nutshell, manifold social protection programmes and services are in place, often introduced in response to crises. The schemes are scattered in different regions, coordinated and run by several institutions and have limited funding. Due to the involvement of many actors, the programmes tend to be fragmented with overlap in targeted beneficiaries. Enhanced coordination and cooperation among planning and implementing institutions is therefore required.

In order to meet the need for more coherent policies, the Social Protection Operational Framework and Strategy (SPOFS) was adopted in 2012. An Action Plan for implementing the SPOFS is to be drafted by 2016. The implementation of the SPOFS in the near future aims to provide adequate social protection to the people in a coordinated, inclusive and effective manner. The assessment based national dialogue (ABND) exercise currently being conducted in the country, will identify the challenges in delivering social protection benefits to the people, and will provide recommendations to the implementation of the SPOFS. It is also expected to contribute to the government’s goal of empowering and protecting the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the country.