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Strengthening Social Protection in Uzbekistan
A major meeting of UNICEF, Government Ministers and international experts has discussed how Uzbekistan’s social protection system can best be strengthened in order to protect the most vulnerable from economic shocks and make economic growth more inclusive for all.
The roundtable titled, The Role of Social Protection in Achieving the Goals of the Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy for 2017-2021, organised by UNICEF and the Development Strategy Centre discussed strengths and weaknesses of the current social protection system and ways to protect the most vulnerable from socio-economic risks. The meeting brought together high level representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Employment and Labour Relations, Health, Public Education and the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Women’s Committee and the World Bank among others.
“A strong social protection system is particularly critical in the time of socio-economic reforms in order to protect the most vulnerable from the economic shocks and to make economic growth more inclusive,” said Sascha Graumann, UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan.
“Social protection systems play an important role in promoting the development of a healthy and productive labour force, encouraging people to seek work, take risks and invest in productive activities. It can also assist in cushioning the economy during economic downswings and stimulate the development of local economies.
“In assessing and reforming the current system, we need to be guided by the ultimate goal of the reforms that the President has outlined – improving the lives of people and lifting families out of low income status. The recent expansion of coverage for social allowances in the context of currency liberalization demonstrates the Government’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in times of reforms.”
There is a growing interest in developing a comprehensive approach to lifting families out of low income status, including through improving access to services, micro credits and employment, Mr. Graumann added.
The better integration of social allowances and services is at the heart of strengthening the social protection system. Strengthening the social work function through increasing the number of social workers in the system and implementing a case management approach could enable vulnerable families and individuals to be reached by systematic and effective work.
“The strategy for the five priority development areas of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 includes a large-scale program of economic and social reforms. In the course of reforms, a strong social protection system is particularly important, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable segments of the population from economic shocks and economic growth for the benefit of all sectors of society,” said Akmal Burkhanov, Executive Director of the Development Strategy Center.
The social protection system in Uzbekistan has undergone multiple changes in recent years and responsibility has been distributed across different Ministries. Based on international experience, the consolidation of a common social protection strategy, social protection functions, and better coordination mechanism across sectors is key to increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the system.
UNICEF is working in close coordination with the Government of Uzbekistan in strengthening social protection via measures including social protection system assessment, integrated approaches to lifting families out of low income status and an integrated monitoring information system.