Sri Lanka has second highest welfare coverage in Asia

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has the second highest welfare coverage in Asia, albeit with low spending per person, while other forms of social protection are below par, the Asian Development Bank said.

The Social Protection Indicator for Asia Report said that Sri Lanka has the second highest social assistance (welfare assistance and child, elderly and disability assistance) coverage, reaching 54.7 percent of the programs’ intendent recipients, behind Thailand’s 60 percent.

"Sri Lanka’s coverage was well balanced along with welfare assistance, including the Samurdhi subsidy for the poor and child welfare support," ADB said in the report, which evaluated 25 countries in the time period of 2009 to 2015.

"Coverage widened with more assistance to the elderly and the introduction of a new program to support pregnant women."

The average coverage for high income countries in the study was 13.6 percent of intended recipients, while for upper middle income countries it was 16.1 percent.

Lower middle income countries (to which Sri Lanka fell when the study was conducted, but is now an upper middle income country) had a 20.1 percent coverage. The total average for Asia was 18.4 percent.

Welfare expenditure in Sri Lanka had doubled from 0.3 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2009 to 0.6 percent of GDP in 2015.

In monetary terms Sri Lanka had spent 47.11 US dollars per capita on welfare in 2015.

However, Sri Lanka’s spending on welfare benefits was low compared to 1.5 percent of GDP in high income countries and upper middle income countries, and 0.9 percent of GDP among lower middle income countries.

High income and upper middle income countries focused more on social insurance programs, such as pensions and health insurance, with Japan spending 19.4 percent of GDP in 2015 and China 6.9 percent.





Sri Lanka meanwhile spent 2.6 percent of GDP on pension and health insurance programs (although the country has free healthcare, there is a growing demand for private healthcare and insurance due to rising income levels and an ageing population)

Social insurance benefits in Sri Lanka fell 12 percent between 2009 and 2015 with slightly lower spending on women, ADB said.

In total, Sri Lanka had spent 3.2 percent of GDP on all forms of social protection expenditure, which was among the lower levels in Asia.  Singapore spent 5.3 percent of GDP, while the Maldives spent 5.6 percent, China 7.7 percent, Japan 21.1 percent and Vietnam 6.3 percent.

Sri Lanka’s spending was even lower than the lower middle income average, which was 3.9 percent. (Colombo/Aug06/2019)

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