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Social security and social protection

Social security
© UNICEF Mozambique
Overall, on a national level there has been a stagnation in the poverty level based on consumption since 2002.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 5 September 2011 – In the Government’s action plan against absolute poverty, commonly known as PARP, poverty is defined as a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Lack of capacity or lack of opportunity to access basic services is an integral aspect of absolute poverty, one that both is part of it and contributes to it at the same time. In practical terms, poverty is defined along various dimensions and can be expressed in terms of consumption or in terms of different types of deprivation. When measured as access to consumption, Zambezia is the poorest province in Mozambique.

Overall, on a national level there has been a stagnation in the poverty level based on consumption since 2002, and inequity between urban and rural areas and between provinces remain. At the same time, improvements have been recorded in several areas, as measured by reduction of deprivation.

Social security is an important form of social protection, which is aimed at creating a safety net for all citizens, so that they do not suffer hunger and death as a result of poverty. In Mozambique, there are three levels or forms of social security; one is the obligatory social security system associated with employment (INSS), which includes all employees engaged in a formal employment relationship above a certain income level; another is complementary social security, which is usually administered through the private sector, for example through insurance programs; and a third one is what is referred to as basic social security. The latter is different from the first two in that it does not involve a payment by the beneficiaries, but flows directly to them on the basis for example of their age or health situation. The Government’s food subsidy program is an example of a program that falls into this third category.

According to UNICEF and others, access to basic social security is a human right as well as an important tool to fight poverty. The concept of social security has long been accepted and implemented in developed countries and is seen as a natural part of the functioning of most social systems. In Mozambique, basic social security is one of the pillars of social protection. It consists of programs that aim at reducing the risks and vulnerabilities that various population groups encounter. In principle, such programs are aimed at families and individuals that are not able to escape the circle of poverty on their own.

Social Protection
© UNICEF Mozambique
The Government of Mozambique is allocating between 1 and 1.5 per cent of the state budget to social protection programs.

Risk and vulnerability are often defined in terms of dependence on others for subsistence (for example the elderly or the very young) or the extent to which one is exposed to external shocks, for example through disease and floods. Vulnerability can also come about through fluctuations in food prices and in the yield from harvests, which is linked to the concept of food security. Risk, which is a concept closely linked to vulnerability and sometimes used interchangeably with it, relates to the probability that a person be exposed to an adverse event, such as getting a debilitating disease, and the likely impact such an event is likely to have on him or her. Failure to deal effectively with risk and vulnerability can often lead to poverty or compound poverty where it already exists.

In Mozambique, as in other countries, social protection is centered around the promotion of people’s economic strength; protection and alleviation of deprivations; and prevention of negative outcomes from external shocks. Improving economic strength is closely linked to human capacity development, primarily through education and productivity improvements. Importantly, the introduction of social security and social protection can have a multiplier effect that leads to many positive outcomes, such as increased economic activity in a community. This is contrary to a common belief that social security leads to dependency and inactivity.

Currently, the Government of Mozambique is allocating between 1 and 1.5 per cent of the state budget to social protection programs, whereas this percentage can be in the range of 20-25 per cent in many developed countries. It is therefore important for the Government to continue to create fiscal space within its budgets to provide basic social security and to find the most effective ways of carrying out cash transfers. Investing in social security is essential. Up to a certain point, money spent on social security represents one of the most effective investments that any society can make in itself and in its citizens.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:



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