How well are we doing?
Innovative social protection
How well are we doing?
The transition to a greener economy one part of the broader shift toward 21st century industries which are circular, more service based and more automated. But how can governments ensure that equity and inclusion are mainstreamed into this '4th industrial revolution', and a just transition is achieved in a world with less consumption? Innovative social protection policies describe a range of different interventions that are starting to be considered to support citizens in the new economy - universal basic incomes, services and job or ownership guarantees.
Unsurprisingly for such a new area of policy, many government are yet to take seriously the need to overhaul social protection and employment policies, and policy ambition amongst the 20 countries reviewed was amongst the weakest of all policy areas. Almost half of countries had made next to no progress on innovation, a group that included countries as diverse as Botswana, China, Peru, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Countries exploring new approaches include a mix of richer countries like Sweden and France with traditions of progressive policies around shared ownership, and others like Bangladesh, Brazil, and India who have explored universal payment programmes as part of more inclusive development strategies. Malaysia has taken one of the strongest positions in the latter group, setting up monthly stipends for poorer households.
About this policy
The opportunities of a greener economy – green jobs, sustainable economic growth, better health, a stable environment – also come with challenges, especially for those who may face unemployment and hardship. New industries will supplant the old; automation will transform employment; and some high-pollution industries may have to be shut down entirely. To support citizens through this transition, new kinds of social protection will be needed, and governments need to trial these approaches to future-proof their economies.
Innovations such as universal basic income, universal basic services, job guarantees, and community ownership models are aimed at ensuring that the economy is prepared for the challenge of a truly sustainable, digital industrial revolution. Although primarily focussing economic inclusion and social welfare, they can be linked directly to environmental conservation – such as through biocredits or conditional social transfers.
Many of these policies at an early stage of development, and governments are wary of reinventing their welfare or taxation systems entirely. The least prepared countries will be those who have are yet to take action, and rely on traditional or minimal forms of social protection. Others may have proposed local or limited pilots of income support or guaranteed services or jobs, and may even have begun trialling some approaches. Stronger policy frameworks will have a strategy for innovating different approaches, and have links to green economy and the just transition – perhaps even at the national level.
Case Study: Malaysia
Social protection policy in Malaysia is shaped by the 11th Malaysia Plan, with the 2019 budget announcement providing further detail on poverty alleviation approaches. The most notable policy includes the BR1M unconditional cash transfer scheme for low-income households, which provides every household with a monthly income of RM 2,000 (US$480) and below with a RM 1,000 (US$240) stipend. There are further, smaller stipends for households with monthly incomes up to US$ 1000, and extra support targeted at families with children.Malaysia Country Profile