10 July 2023

Building the case for a lifecycle social protection system in Sri Lanka

Compounding shocks have resulted in Sri Lanka facing its worst debt and economic crisis since independence, exacerbating an already challenging situation of low, precarious and volatile incomes, and severely impacting people’s wellbeing. This study finds that these multifaceted crises have brought about a reduction in consumption and a sharp increase in poverty that has been experienced across all age groups, but particularly among households with children, who are already among the most vulnerable lifecycle group in Sri Lanka. If left unaddressed, this is likely to lead to serious welfare challenges, and it risks undermining social trust and cohesion and further weakening state-citizen relationships at a critical moment of crisis. Sri Lanka’s current social protection system does not yet adequately address the widespread nature of low incomes and declining living standards. This study charts out an alternative approach for Sri Lanka to take the first steps towards building an inclusive social protection system that more comprehensively and adequately protects the wellbeing of all Sri Lankans over the life cycle and provides the basis for a more sustainable growth trajectory. It presents a series of options for Sri Lanka to invest in universal lifecycle programmes – a universal child benefit (UCB), universal disability benefits and a pension tested old age benefit – which can be introduced over time to progressively build an effective national social protection floor.
27 April 2023

Sri Lanka’s Multidimensional Poverty Index 2019 Results:

Poverty has many faces and especially the experience of deprivations during childhood, such as in nutrition and cognitive development, can last a lifetime. In line with the international community’s commitment to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”, as embraced in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, Sri Lanka recognizes the multiple ways in which poverty manifests itself for individuals beyond monetary deprivations, including deprivations in education, health, and living standards. In 2021, in close consultation with various stakeholders and with the support of UNICEF, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and the European Union, the Department of Census and Statistics (DCS) developed the first official national Multidimensional Poverty Index (national MPI) for Sri Lanka, using data from the Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2019. The Sri Lankan MPI creates a comprehensive picture of poverty. It reveals who the poor people are and how they are poor by focusing on a set of interlinked deprivations that poor people experience. To further probe and support child-focused policies, an individual child MPI for children aged 0-4 was crafted, which includes the same indicators as the national MPI, plus two pivotally important child deprivations in Sri Lanka: undernutrition and early childhood development. Sri Lanka’s child MPI is pioneering in being the first official measure of child poverty that links directly and precisely with the national MPI.   The Sri Lankan MPI is an official permanent statistic of multidimensional poverty that will be updated and published regularly, reported as SDG indicator 1.2.2 (“proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions”), and used to complement the monetary poverty measure.   Yet, the MPI is not just a statistic. It is a policy tool. It provides relevant information to accelerate poverty reduction in different sectors with limited resources – by informing high impact budget allocations to social sectors, focused interventions, policy design and coordination, and monitoring. In addition to capturing simultaneous deprivations in different dimensions, the national and child MPIs can also be disaggregated by age, sex, or location. It can be used to show the extent to which different deprivations contribute to poverty, for whom and where, thereby providing more detailed insights into how to focus policy interventions.
25 March 2019

UNICEF on budget speech 2019

A nation’s budget is one of the most important policies for the country’s children. It is through the budget that the financial means necessary for the fulfilment of the rights of all children are allocated. Since the way in which Governments use public funds matters enormously to children, UNICEF Sri Lanka is engaged in budget analyses,…, WASH, stats The Government proposes Rs. 4,000 Mn for the provision of sanitation facilities to 260,000 houses (approximately one million individuals) that currently do not have sanitation facilities. This is very encouraging as proper sanitation is important for health and survival, especially for children, who are amongst the most vulnerable to…, HEALTH, In the pursuit of a healthy society, the Government highlighted allocations of large sums of funds for infrastructure (Rs. 24,750 Mn), primary health care units (Rs. 1,625 Mn), ambulance services (Rs. 200 Mn), CKDu (Rs. 550 Mn), Rabies control (100 Mn), Non – communicable diseases (Rs. 50 Mn), and sports development (Rs. 4,200 Mn). As the…, EDUCATION, girl with a book To build a knowledge driven skilled society and ensure 13 years of education to all students, the Government highlights investments in improving infrastructure (Rs. 32,000 Mn), in-service teacher training (Rs. 100 Mn), curricula modernization, shifting the focus from rote learning to more analytical and creative learning, as well…, DISABILITIES, It is encouraging to see Government’s attention to the rights and needs of differently-abled persons. The budget proposes to increase the monthly allowance differently-abled individuals currently receive from Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 and to expand funding in order to eliminate the waiting list of eligible low-income individuals, or almost 72,000…, SOCIAL PROTECTION, Child probation officer comforting a child The focus on strengthening the social safety net is also very welcomed, since despite the impressive and steady progress in poverty reduction and human development over the past decades, significant socioeconomic inequalities exist (with large pockets of left-behind poor, especially in the Estate and…, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, The budget places a lot of emphasis on supporting women and mothers to enter and continue in the labour force. The encouraging of the provision of child-care facilities by commercial establishments with more than 250 employees through concessionary loans schemes, and of After-School and Vacation Centers within selected schools, are constructive…, HOUSING, stats The housing needs of the most vulnerable sectors of society was also highlighted in the budget. Rs. 24,5000 Mn has been allocated for the provision of better housing to low income groups in Urban, Rural and Estate sectors and the North and the East. It is well-known that poor housing conditions, including a lack of water and sanitation, can…, NATURAL DISASTERS, The impacts that natural disasters have in the lives and livelihoods of Sri Lankans was also highlighted. Droughts and floods result in “the loss of life, loss of income and property” (Paragraph 170). The budget allocates Rs. 20,000 Mn to a Disaster Management Contingency Fund to mitigate such impacts. Further resources (Rs. 1,000 Mn) have been…, NUTRITION, STATS Given the unacceptably high levels of persistent malnutrition in the country, it would have been encouraging to see the issue of nutrition receive prominence in the Budget Speech, which was not the case this year. Seventeen percent of children under five in Sri Lanka are chronically malnourished, having their physical and cognitive…, EARLY CHILDHOOD, There is a mismatch between what the scientific and economic evidence shows and what is prioritized in the budget as it relates to education of young children. Globally, the highest rates of return have been found on investments in early childhood development and education, since the early years are the most crucial in terms of brain and cognitive…, CHILD PROTECTION, Baby in with a happy smiles in mothers protection. It would also be important for the Budget Speech to highlight adequate allocation of funds to allow for the implementation of the newly approved Alternative Care Policy for Children in Sri Lanka. Funds will allow for identification of risk-prone children, identification of appropriate alternative…, www.unicef.org/srilanka