Pension Watch eNewsletter No. 1: September 2012

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Dear Eduard,

Welcome to the first edition of the Pension Watch eNewsletter.

We aim to provide biannual updates on what’s new in social pension policy and research. This includes an overview of key changes in social pension schemes in the last six months and «Social Pensions in Focus» which interrogates a current policy debate with reference to social protection for older people.

Please forward this eNewsletter to any of your contacts who may find it interesting.

Visit our Pension Watch website to learn more about social pensions.

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Changes in Social Pensions

China Alongside rapid extension of the rural pension system, China approved a five-year plan for a universal social security system.

Ghana In August Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur announced that the Government was ‘exploring measures to institute social pension for all persons beyond 65 years with no productive capacity’.

India There has been mounting pressure for the universal coverage of pensions. The National Advisory Council and the Pensions Parishad have been calling for the expansion of the IGNOAPS and the abolition of poverty-targeting.

Mexico Social Pensions were a high profile campaign pledge in the run up to Mexico’s elections with Enrique Peña Nieto — now president elect — promising a universal minimum pension.

Nigeria Ekiti State, in South-West Nigeria, established a social pension in October 2011 – the first of its kind in West Africa. In August 2012 Osun State also implemented a social pension.

Peru Pension 65 – a social pension pilot – was launched in Peru in late 2011. Although implemented in only a handful of districts it means that now every country in Latin America has a social pension.

Uganda In September, 2011, the Senior Citizen’s Scheme – a social pensions pilot — was launched in Uganda. The pilot is currently running in 14 districts.

Venezuela In late 2011 a social pension — called Gran Misión en Amor Mayor — was launched in Venezuela. In August 2012 it was reported that 328,750 older people were receiving the pension.

Social Pensions in Focus: Food Security

In 2002, following decades of decline, the cost of food began an upward trend. It is expected that high costs and food price volatility will continue in the coming years. While the impact of price volatility on domestic markets is highly context specific there is no doubt that this trend presents a significant challenge to the achievement of halving world hunger by 2015, as outlined in the first Millennium Development Goal.

Food security can be seen as the product of three components: food availability, accessibility and utilisation. The interventions needed to achieve food security are multi-sectoral and context specific. Recent emphasis has been on food accessibility which is dependent on income, entitlements, household priorities and food prices. Improving food accessibility will then depend on reducing poverty while at the same time stabilising or reducing the price of food.

Entitlements in the form of social protection have been seen to have an impact on the food security of recipient households. Social protection programmes take a variety of forms – from categorically targeted entitlements such as old-age pensions or child benefit to conditional cash transfers and cash-for-work programmes. Social pensions – non-contributory entitlements targeted at all or a sub-set of older people – have been found to have a positive impact on food security of both older people and their households.

Social pensions can significantly improve access to food for recipients as well as improving the quality of food that they consume. In Mexico in 2009 recipients of the pension were much less likely to report, in the last three months, hunger of themselves or their household members, accessing emergency food supplies or the reduction of food intake – either by constraining portion sizes, eating less frequently or skipping meals. It was estimated that an average of one sixth of the pension was spent on increasing access to food. Similarly, in Swaziland, recipients of the social pension reported eating more meals (24% of respondents), increased food quality (28%) and an increased ability to economise by buying food in bulk (27%) than before they received the pension. Recipients reported changes in spending habits in the following categories related to food security: groceries (68% of respondents), meat, chicken and fish (63%) and vegetables and fruit (44%).

Income from social pensions can provide households with the liquidity needed to increase and diversify food production. A 2004 study into the impact of the Bolivian social pension BONOSOL on recipient households found that, on average, recipient households in rural areas increased food consumption with ‘a total value equivalent to 165% of the cash transfer’. Much of this additional consumption came from increased domestic production of food. Evidence on changes in expenditure patterns suggest increased investments in agricultural activities in rural areas. Impacts on food consumption for urban households were smaller, reflecting the higher poverty levels and under-exploited productive capacity of rural households.

Children living with pension recipients may benefit from increased food security. Findings from South Africa suggest that female children living with a Grandmother in receipt of the social pension show improved weight for height. There was found to be no discernible effect on male children. There was also no discernible impact on the nutritional status of children of either sex living with a male pensioner.

Increasing income levels through social protection entitlements is only one approach to achieving food security. Addressing availability, accessibility and utilisation of food will require a multi-sectoral approach which goes beyond national-level policy. Even within the context of social pensions we see that impacts on food security vary. However, the provision of social pensions may help households reduce chronic food insecurity whilst also providing a buffer during periods of acute need.

New HelpAge Resources


Pensions, Poverty and Well-being: The Impact of Pensions in South Africa and Brazil, a Comparative Study | December 2011
Pension watch briefing no. 7 demonstrates that the impact of pensions goes beyond the direct beneficiaries as older people continue to assist their families and households.

Electronic Payments for Cash Transfer Programmes: Cutting Costs and Corruption of an Idea Ahead of its Time? | July 2012
Based on an expert learning event on e-payment systems organised by HelpAge International for UK Aid in 2012 this briefing focuses on the practical considerations of establishing e-payment systems for distributing cash transfers.

Blog: State by State? Social Pensions in Nigeria

This blog, by John Dada of the Fantsuam Foundation, explores the recent establishment of social pensions in Ekiti and Osun and asks whether this heralds a new dawn for older people in Nigeria. This blog also forms the basis of an article in the Think Africa Press.

Blog: Social Protection for Older Persons: Social Pensions in Asia

This blog, by Giang Thanh Long, discusses the recent Asian Development Bank publicationSocial Protection for Older Persons: Social Pensions in Asia, of which Dr Long was a contributing author.

Presentation by Pilar Contreras

In May 2012 the ILO, with HelpAge International, hosted a seminar entitled «Social Security Systems in Latin America: Challenges for the Extension of Social Protection in the Andean Region». HelpAge International’s Pilar Contreras was there to talk about the pressing need for economic security for older people and how it could be acheived in the region.

Pension Watch Database

The Pension Watch Database has recently been updated and now contains information on over 100 social pension schemes.

New Publications in the Knowledge Centre

ADB: Social Protection for Older Persons: Social Pensions in Asia | July 2012
This publication aims to address the knowledge gap of social pension reform in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB: What is the Role of Social Pensions in Asia? | April 2012
In particular, this paper focusses on questions around the comparative advantages of social assistance and social pensions, and the integration of non-contributory transfers within advanced contributory pension schemes.

EC: Social Protection in European Union Development Co-operation
| August 2012
This document focusses in particular on the development of long-term, nationally owned social protection systems that should support people across the life course.

ECLAC: Ageing, Solidarity and Social Protection: Time for Progress Towards Equality | May 2012
With a central theme of equality and ageing this paper analyses the outlook for population ageing in Latin America and the Caribbean and advocates mainstreaming this issue into the public agenda.

WEF: The Case for an Integrated Model of Growth, Employment and Social Protection | March 2012
Described as ‘a call to action from the Global Agenda Council on Employment and Social Protection’ this paper explores the interlinked issues of growth, employment and social protection.

World Bank: The Elderly and Old Age Support in Rural China: Challenges and Prospects | April 2012
As well as providing empirical analysis of living conditions for older people in rural China since the early 1990s this paper also explores the evolution of the rural pension system over the last two decades.

World Bank: Resilience, Equity and Opportunity: The World Bank’s Social Protection and Labour Strategy 2012-2022 | March 2012
Here, a long term view sees social pensions as primarily an interim, albeit essential, means of providing coverage to those ‘who do not have enough time to accumulate pensions in contributory programmes’ and expects that their role will diminish as coverage of formal systems expands.


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