Working to Boost Social Protection in Cambodia

Cambodia has come a long way since the UN sponsored elections of 1993. Much remains to be done however in terms of social protection and poverty reduction. Although per capita GDP rose 5 per cent per year between 1993 and 2010, Cambodians still face precarious employment, low quality healthcare, and poor basic infrastructure. Plus chronic malnutrition and a high risk of natural disasters.

To address these issues the UN Photo / Pernaca SudhakaranCambodian Government launched a National Social Protection Strategy for the Poor and Vulnerable in late 2011. This is part of the country’s plan to rebuild its social services and raise living standards for all its citizens.

The Cambodian Government and UNICEF-Cambodia contracted the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance to help in this work. Our role is to estimate the rates of return on social protection investments in Cambodia, and so help design social protection instruments.

Our study focuses on non-contributory social transfers and their role in socio-economic development. In this context, we find that social transfers reduce income poverty and inequality but also affect household behaviour. For example they increase consumption and the resources available for investment in health, education, livelihoods and productive activities.

The study started in January 2012 with a period of fieldwork to collect data and connect with various governmental institutions and development partners. Overall the study analyses four social protection instruments: cash transfers, scholarships, public works and social pensions.

For this work we are using various UN Photo / Kibae Parkquantitative techniques to generate a comprehensive analysis of the potential benefits of social transfers in Cambodia. These draw on national surveys from 2004 and 2009, as well as static and dynamic micro-simulations. The results will be presented at the end of summer 2012 during a workshop in Phnom Penh.

Andrés Mideros Mora, PhD fellow, Maastricht Graduate School of Governance