You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser

Social Protection

Building social protection floors and comprehensive social security systems

Syria: Social security programmes


Medical care for Syrian citizens is essentially free in all government clinics and health centres, yet the efficiency and effectiveness of the public health system is constrained due to insufficient coordination, low level of qualified personnel and poor human resources. These issues amongst others have led many Syrians to prefer private services. As a result, private out-of-pocket expenditure on health has reached 55% of total health cost (2008). The weaknesses of the Syria healthcare system have recently been exacerbated by three main issues: first, increased needs and demand on health services due to population growth and influxes of refugees; second, an increased gap between revenue and health services expenditure; and third, the health sector’s structural and functional weaknesses, such as absence of regulatory authority and clear health policy.

The Government of Syria has engaged in a reform of the health care sector, which includes investments in new health infrastructure, hospital specialization and recruitment of personnel, as well as the introduction of health insurance (for the first time for workers in the public sector).


Old age, disability and survivor pensions

Social insurance is administered by the General Establishment for Social Insurance (GESI), as set out in the Social Insurance Act No. 92 of 1959 and the Law No. 24 of 1962. GESI is supervised by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. It is managed by a tripartite board of directors and administered through its head office in Damascus and local offices in the governorates.

GESI's pension scheme covers employees in the public and private sectors, yet effective coverage rates are relatively limited. The pension scheme is financed through contributions of employees (7% of earning) and employers (14% of earning). Pensionable age is 60 for men and 55 for women, yet workers in physically demanding or dangerous work can retire at any age after 15 years of contributions; other workers can retire at any age with 30 years of contributions. The pension formula is based on 2.5% of earnings times the number of years of contributions, with a maximum ceiling of 75% of earnings and a minimum floor of the minimum wage. Survivor pensions, disability pensions, employment injury pensions are also available. Social insurance in Syria still faces numerous challenges, including its limited coverage, financial sustainability, contribution evasion and the limited range of benefits provided (lack of short-term benefits such as unemployment insurance, sickness and maternity benefits).

A large informal sector presents a serious challenge to the extension of social insurance in Syria. With over 40% of the labour force employed in the informal sector, and most of the new jobs also being created in the informal sector, social insurance is unattainable for these workers. Despite the wider statutory scope of coverage, actual coverage is mostly restricted to public sector workers. Data from the 2004 Labour Force Survey show that 89.5% of workers in the public sector but only 9.5% of workers in the (formal) private sector are registered with GESI. | « Back


Employment injury

Employment injury is administered by the General Establishment for Social Insurance (GESI). For further details see above.


Social Assistance programmes

Food and fuel subsidies continue to play a major role in social protection, yet they are gradually being reduced, responding to concerns about their cost and ineffective allocation. In response, the government is currently reforming the social assistance system and is preparing the establishment of a National Social Aid Fund (NSAF) with the support of UNDP. The NSAF is supposed to consolidate the variety of social assistance programmes into one national programme based on a uniform proxy means testing procedure.

Social security schemes and programs by branch