Workshop on Leaving No One Behind: Inequality and Social Protection in North and Central Asia (NCA)
The Social Development Division organized a one-day “Workshop on Leaving No One Behind in North and Central Asia”, back-to-back with the “North and Central Asia Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals”. The Workshop aimed to enhance the understanding of policymakers in North and Central Asia on measuring inequality of opportunity and identifying the furthest behind, as well as on how to reduce inequalities through social protection. The workshop gathered around 80 participants, including government officials from nine countries, national experts as well as representatives from civil society, academia and international development organizations.
The first part of the workshop focused on ways to measure inequality of opportunity and identify the furthest behind, an essential part of leaving no one behind (LNOB). Policymakers were introduced to innovative methodologies (classification tree analysis and the dissimilarity
index or D-Index) to measure inequality in access to basic services and identify the furthest behind in relation to opportunities such as education, decent work, nutrition, clean energy, water and sanitation, as well as health care and financial inclusion (forthcoming). Participants were invited to analyse results on the furthest behind using country-level data examples from NCA member States.
The second part of the workshop was dedicated to exploring social protection as a policy response to multidimensional inequality and other social development challenges, integral to the achievement of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Participants also presented good practices from their respective countries in a Gallery Walk-style.
- Azerbaijan presented its recent comprehensive reform of social protection, which increased benefit levels of, for example, old-age pensions and need-based benefits. A promising reform was also the increase of the minimum wage.
- Kazakhstan introduced its state supported unemployment scheme, which consists of free technical and professional education, critical for young people; support of entrepreneurship, including through micro-credit or state grants; and encouragement of the redeployment of workers to jobs in high demand.
- Uzbekistan presented its new single registry for social protection benefits. From filing an electronic application to a "unified register”, to payment of benefits or allowances within a month of the application, the new system streamlines processes, decisions and actions and is expected to significantly improve efficiency in service delivery.
- Armenia presented its methodology for developing a territorial social plan, which aims to provide efficient, integrated and comprehensive social services that target children, women, families, persons with disability, at the regional (marz) level across the country.
Drawing on recent analytical work, ESCAP presented evidence on the role of social protection in accelerating sustainable development. Increasing public expenditure on social protection, to reach the global average of 11.2 per cent of GDP would, would eliminate moderate poverty in Azerbaijan by 2020 and in Armenia and Tajikistan by 2030. It would also reduce average income inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient), in the entire Asia-Pacific region by five percentage points, while also boosting economic growth.
To further encourage policymakers to implement social protection floors, ESCAP introduced its four Social Protection Policy Guides on why social protection is needed and on how to design, implement and finance inclusive social protection systems. ESCAP also presented its Social Protection Toolbox, an interactive online platform that provides good practices and infographics on social protection and informed participants of the soon-to-come Social Protection Impact and Financing Tool that will support member States to estimate the expected impact of extending different social protection schemes.