The global human rights watchdog has urged the govt to expand the child grant; include informal workers
KATHMANDU, Feb 1: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the newly-elected government of Nepal to prioritize coverage for all children and add coverage for millions of informal-sector workers as it considers changes to the existing system. The global human rights watchdog also said that Nepal’s social protection system fails to effectively protect children from poverty and reinforces inequalities between informal and formal workers.
“Governments have an obligation to protect everyone’s rights to social security and an adequate standard of living. A universal approach to social protection, with benefits available to the entire population, fulfills that requirement, and canstrengthen public support for programs, help build a strong social contract, HRW said in its report released globally on Thursday, adding, “Yet, in the past years the government of Nepal has taken steps attempting to target social protection at people in poverty, which can be counterproductive, preventing at-risk households from exercising their right to social security.”
Targeted programs are often too narrow; selection processes are costly,inaccurate, and can be prone tocorruption; and many eligible people find it hard to apply or don’t apply due to thestigma, added the report.
“Nepal has made important strides in expanding social protection, but large groups, particularly children and informal workers are being left behind,” a press statement issued by the HRW quotedLena Simet, senior economic justice researcher at Human Rights Watch, as saying. “Investing in social protection for everyone is crucial to protect people’s rights and to enhance the country’s economic well-being.”
In July 2022, HRW examined the state of the social security system in Nepal, discussing policies with ministries involved in planning reforms as well as a municipal social security office implementing the current policies. The HRW also reviewed householddata collected by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); interviewed 18 people about their experiences requesting or receiving social security; and consulted 16 experts, activists, social workers, and nongovernmental groups that work with people in need of assistance.
The shortcomings became particularly visible during the Covid-19 pandemic. Most people interviewed did not receive any form of social protection or relief during Covid-19-related lockdowns, reducing their ability to meet everyday expenses. The lack of resources led people to cut back on food, remove children from school, omit medical procedures, and take on debt, states the report.
The HRW identified additional barriers that prevent families, informal workers, and other people in Nepal from enjoying their right to social security, contributing to the low social protection coverage rateof just 17 percent.
The provision to tie eligibility for social protection to citizenship, and the stigma associated with making requests for government support have been identified as main barriers to access social security in Nepal. “An inclusive social protection system is key for any rights-respecting economy and underpins building a strong social contract,” Simet said. “Realizing everyone’s right to social security, not just those in formal employment, is vital. This has never been clearer than in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, where countries with inclusive social security systems were better equipped to cope with the crisis.”