Social Protection in VietnamAfter the end of the Vietnam War, Vietnam embarked on a remarkable economic and social transformation, becoming one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. Many communities in Vietnam, nevertheless, still face poor living standards and social insecurity. Subsequently, social protection in Vietnam began gaining traction in hopes of supporting the country’s growing socioeconomic status. Over the past two decades, Vietnam’s social protection initiatives and programs have produced varying successes and failures. 

Social Protection in Vietnam

While Vietnam is a middle/upper middle-income country undergoing rapid socioeconomic development, social protection programs are still crucial to tackling relative poverty, social exclusion and increasing inequality. According to a 2019 World Bank report, the three main priorities of social protection are social insurance, social and welfare assistance and labor market programs.

Social protection aims to provide a safety net for individuals and households, protecting them from various risks and vulnerabilities. By addressing issues related to education, employment, health care, social welfare and poverty reduction, social protection in Vietnam seeks to enhance public well-being and quality of life and promote social cohesion within societies.

Successes and Achievements

Reports from the United Nations (U.N.) and the World Bank note rising access to social protection in Vietnam, such as education, health care, housing for the poor and disadvantaged, safe water, improved infrastructure, emergency relief, education and more.

The following are some of Vietnam’s developments in social protection:

  • Vietnam created the Employment and Vocational Training program, which provided jobs for about 320,000 individuals. 
  • Additionally, Vietnam Bank has lent micro-credit to more than 8.4 million people, mainly the poor and financially vulnerable.
  • The nation’s universal health insurance scheme currently covers 87% of the population, improving the quality of life for Vietnamese citizens. 
  • As of 2019, 99.4% of the population mainly relied on electricity as their main lighting source.
  • From 1993 to 2020, access to clean water in rural areas expanded from 17% to 51%. 
  • The nation boasts the second-highest average duration of (learning-adjusted) schooling among Southeast Asian countries at 10.2 years and achieves the highest human capital index of 0.69 among lower-middle-income economies, due to improved access to education. 

At the beginning of 2022, The Vietnamese Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began constructing a climate governance system, highlighting the country’s commitment to addressing climate change. The focus on streamlined policies, budgeting processes and climate finance planning demonstrates a proactive approach to achieving climate goals. The recognition of international support, including expertise, technology transfer and climate finance, showcases Vietnam’s determination to accelerate its green transition and ensure the sustainability of social protection in Vietnam.

Barriers and Challenges

Vietnam faces challenges due to the independent design and implementation of social protection and social insurance systems, resulting in coverage gaps, fragmentation and insufficient benefits. Consequently, Vietnam’s current social protection system fails to adequately protect children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Many medical facilities in Vietnam operate under poor-resourced conditions: outdated facilities, chronic overcrowding and inadequate medical equipment. Furthermore, a shortage of qualified medical staff adds to the challenges, with doctors and nurses working under stressful conditions and receiving relatively low wages. Therefore, despite high health care insurance coverage in Vietnam, the quality of care remains inadequate and insufficient, particularly for impoverished, vulnerable groups. 

As stated in a 2016 Vietnamese Government and UNDP report, the social assistance transfer system offered limited coverage and minimal impact on poverty reduction. Social assistance transfers are government programs or initiatives to support individuals in extreme impoverishment through cash transfers, food assistance, housing subsidies, education grants, health care subsidies and more. Compared to other middle-income countries, the value of social transfers in Vietnam is minimal, undermining their potential impact on family well-being and economic growth. Delivery systems of social protection are undeveloped, with limited use of technology for implementation. The provision of social care services is inadequate, with a shortage of professional social workers and insufficient support for vulnerable individuals.

Improvements to Social Protection in Vietnam

Although Vietnam has made tremendous progress in social protection, challenges remain. There appears to be a need for the country to make additional efforts that aim to strengthen coordination among programs, expand coverage and benefits for vulnerable groups, improve health care infrastructure and education, enhance the capacity of social workers and health care professionals and mobilize resources and international support. Implementing these measures could reinforce Vietnam’s social protection system and ensure the well-being and inclusion of all its citizens.

– Freya Ngo
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Care in South Africa
The South African government currently offers seven different types of social protection grants for its inhabitants. One of those grants is the Old-Age Pension Grant also known as the Older Person’s Grant (OPG), the only grant targeted specifically towards elderly care in South Africa. It provides a monthly income for citizens, refugees and permanent residents who are aged 60 or above with no other means of income.


The grant is allotted based on the results of a means-test, which requires the recipient to provide the government with information on their household, income and financial assets. In 2018, pensioners over the age of 60 received R1600 a month, which is around $115. Pensioners over the age of 65 received R1620, or $117 per month. The government reported that pension recipients will see a small increase in the amount received per month during the year.

Benefits of the Old Age Pension

The Old Age Pension keeps the elderly from falling into further poverty once they have surpassed their ability to provide household income. In fact, according to the International Labor Office, along with other grants, the OPG has been instrumental in the “reduction in poverty incidence among older persons from 55.6 percent in 2006 to 36.2 percent in 2011.”

Furthermore, it was even reported that female pension recipients reported better overall health within the first five years of payments than elderly females who had not yet become eligible for the grant. However, the benefits of the grant do not stop with the elderly.

Elderly people who receive the grant and live in a household with more family members are reported to share their monthly income with the rest of the house, which helps to reduce poverty for the entire household. It is estimated that one grant can reach up to six people in a household.

In addition, there is a positive correlation between employment and members living in a household where the pension is received. Women who are aged 20-30 that live in a recipient’s house are 15 percent more likely to be employed than those who do not.

Moreover, children who live in a recipient’s household are reported to have better height-for-age and weight-for-height than those who do not. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many grandparents have taken over the care of their grandchildren as their parents are suffering or have perished from related illnesses. This grant helps grandparents care for these children appropriately.

More Work to Be Done

The pension has done great things for elderly care in South Africa, but also because of its reach into multi-generational households, it has aided overall poverty and living conditions in the country. However, there is more work to be done. Only 80 percent of age-eligible inhabitants are receiving the pension. Those who are eligible but still not receiving the grant are usually males with poor socioeconomic status that live in smaller households and come from the Mozambican origin.

This lack of reception could be explained by many factors. For one, the application process for the grant requires the applicant to travel to a state application center and provide heavy documentation regarding health, income and household information. Traveling to these centers can be difficult and costly for those living in extremely rural areas.

The South African government is dedicated to aiding decrease in
poverty levels and creating a better standard of living for its inhabitants, but many older individuals still hold distrust of the government from the apartheid regime. Elderly care in South Africa has benefitted exponentially from this grant, and though it is a means-tested pension right now, the government hopes to make it universal in the future.

Mary Spindler
Photo: Pixabay


The Government of Ghana will be expanding the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, or the LEAP program, which will provide cash grants to 216 districts in demand of basic needs.

The Government of Ghana has been focusing on poverty alleviation by accomplishing the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. One of these goals included introducing the National Social Protection Strategy, (NSPS).

The NSPS works to achieve government objectives by providing protections to people living in extreme poverty, susceptibility and marginalization. There are three main components to the strategy, which include: a grant scheme which provides secure incomes to vulnerable households, social protection programs and complimentary inputs for those that currently receive benefits from social protection programs.

Sprouting the NSPS, the LEAP program has flourished. Developed in 2008, the LEAP program is a cash transfer program that works to enable those disadvantaged and vulnerable populations living in extreme poverty throughout Ghana.

The Government of Ghana projects that the LEAP program will reach 216 districts by the end of the year. Currently, the program resides in 186 districts.

Mr. Eugene Nuamah, the Operations Office of the Ministry of Gender and Children, spoke in the Eastern Region of Ghana. Mr. Nuamah explained that farmers were particularly affected by a recent fire disaster. The farmers received money to replenish their destroyed crops under the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program.

The goal o the Emergency LEAP Cash Transfer program is to provide necessary grants, which address the needs of affected households. Mr. Nuamah also advised farmers to take fire precautions to avoid future crop destructions.

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture additionally works towards ensuring that farmers receive crop seeds to replenish their harvests as soon as possible. Some of the most demanded seeds are cocoa and plantain.

Since its introduction in 2008, the LEAP program has expanded its beneficiary households from 1,654 to 250,000. By the end of the 2016, the program projects that it will reach 350,000 household enrollments throughout Ghana.

The households that will be selected to enroll as beneficiaries to the LEAP program will be determined by a nationwide monitoring exercise. This strategy has been used in the past, as research showed that local economies of LEAP communities were thriving. Children were attending school at a higher rate and more people had access to health care.

In addition, the LEAP program has been modernizing its program through the introduction of electronic payments. The Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System allows beneficiaries to use online payment platforms to ensure greater control over the management of grant funds.

LEAP beneficiaries will have the chance to enroll for online payments. They will be available in all LEAP districts to replace the manual system of transferring cash grants, increasing the efficiency and security of cash transfers.

The LEAP program is administered by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and managed by the Department of Social Welfare.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: Flickr

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) updated its social protection plan by adding agricultural and rural development measures.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reducing poverty have been met by many developing countries; however, there are still high levels of extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Evidence has shown that the three elements of the FAO social protection program: social assistance, social insurance and labor market protection, are very effective in reducing poverty and hunger.

In 2013, the program helped relieve up to 150 million people out of extreme poverty.

The most common form of social protection in developing countries is social assistance, which provides conditional or unconditional cash transfers to households and individuals.

These incentives account for large income losses and lack of savings when farmers are unable to produce enough to survive.

“Most of the world’s poor and hungry continue to live in rural area. According to the World Bank, about 78 percent of the planet’s poor are found in rural areas”, stated FAO Assistant Director-General Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Rural households depend on subsistence agriculture to survive; the cash incentives provided by the FAO have proven to encourage households to invest in the education and health of their children.

These acts help end the generational cycle of poverty and bring FAO closer to achieving the first “Zero-Hunger Generation” goal.

The FAO social protection program has also allowed impoverished rural farmers in developing countries to weather the effects of external shocks such as floods, pests, droughts and price volatility.

José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, stated that “With climate change, the shocks happen year after year; it eats away at the capacity of rural poor to cope with it.

Social protection offers poor families a kind of buffer to protect them from external shocks.”

The most recent edition of The State of Food and Agriculture 2015 explains how the addition of agricultural and rural development measures to the social protection program will sustainably move people out of poverty and hunger.

The report illustrates that agricultural input subsidies, such as fertilizer, have been well received across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

There was an increase in food and fertilizer costs in 2007-2008, so the FAO agricultural incentive was instrumental in providing food security for rural households.

The report also addresses the issue of credit and how little of it is allocated to agricultural needs.

It goes on to emphasize that “leveraging public expenditure on agriculture and social programs” is imperative in strengthening agricultural and rural development.

Agricultural incentives and credit fosters independence amongst rural farmers. They become more financially capable and are able to manage household risks.

Providing credit also allows poor rural farmers to make investments in livestock and machinery, therefore increasing their productivity and income.

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: BBC, FAO
Photo: Google Images