90% of Namibians 'socially protected'

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as many as 2.7 billion people, equivalent to over a third of the world's population, have no publicly funded safety nets to fall back on to cope with its effects.

22 December 2020 | Social Issues

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



More than 90% of the Namibian population is covered by emergency social protection responses.

According to an Oxfam report conducted with Development Pathway, this is the third highest coverage in over 150 countries researched.

The report said nine months since the start of the coronavirus, as many as 2.7 billion people, equivalent to over a third of the world's population, have no publicly funded safety nets to fall back on to cope with its effects.

While wealthy countries have pumped massive amounts of money into their economies, including significant measures to support workers and the general population, the majority of low-and middle-income countries have not applied the same approach to protect their people and economies, it said.

Government schemes were reviewed that used to support people through the pandemic in 126 low-and medium countries including unemployment, disability child and elderly benefits. This data was compared to spending in 28 rich countries. It found that 97% of the support provided for low-and middle-income countries was inadequate to meet basic needs.



'Hundreds of millions' affected

Prior to the pandemic, up to four billion people lacked social protection, with the World Bank estimating that only 1.3 billion of them have been reached during the crisis.

“Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs and income. People have fallen into debt, are skipping meals and are being forced to sell their assets. Unless action is taken now, the number of people living in poverty is set to increase sharply for the first time in decades,” said Ana Arendar, the Oxfam head of inequality campaign.

The analysis showed that the proportion of each country's population covered by emergency social protection programmes range from less than 0.01% in Angola to around 95% in Bolivia, the Philippines and Namibia.

In Namibia, 94.08% of the population is covered by emergency social protection responses, the third highest of the countries researched.



Namibia better prepared

According to the report, some countries like South Africa, Namibia and Bolivia were better prepared - with near-universal social benefits in place prior to the pandemic.

Most other countries could achieve this with better policies and more support, the report further said.

Many developing countries have been able to mobilise non-financial help, like food aid, but this is often insufficient to make up the overall gap in formal social protection schemes, it said.

“Social safety nets are both a lifeline in difficult times and a human right - they are one of the most powerful and affordable investments governments can make to reduce inequality, vulnerability and poverty. There is still time for developing countries to step up their support for people who need it, by increasing taxes on the richest to pay for decent social protection. Rich nations should increase their aid and currency reserves and cancel the debts of low- and middle-income countries, to help support them,” Arendar said.

Oxfam is calling for a global fund for social protection to avert a huge increase in global inequality and poverty, as a keystone toward a more equal and resilient post-coronavirus economy.

It said governments should commit an additional 2% of their gross domestic products into social protection programmes and ensure minimum income security for children, the elderly, mothers, and people living with disabilities.

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