Social Protection for Elderly as a development Strategy: the Case of Ageing Population in Rural Bangladesh.

Author: Nahid Mallik

Mallik, Nahid, 2017 Social Protection for Elderly as a development Strategy: the Case of Ageing Population in Rural Bangladesh., Flinders University, School of Social and Policy Studies

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Since independence in 1971, the government of Bangladesh has been distributing cash and/or food to the vulnerable and the poor through different social safety net programs. Prominent amongst these programs are the Old Age Allowance (OAA) and the Widow Allowance (WA), started in 1997 and 1998, respectively. This study sought to evaluate these programs and to observe the effectiveness of how these programs contribute to and ensure social security for the elderly in Bangladesh. Previous studies have used quantitative methods to research food security, the success of the programs, and to criticize problems of the social safety net programs. Instead, this study uses qualitative research methods to identify real needs of the poorest among the poor older persons, the influence of the programs and the overall improvements in their livelihoods, gaps in the programs’ implementation and on the basis of the opinions of the different stakeholders, an overall observation to make further suggestions for the betterment of the policy design.

Interviews and focus groups discussions were conducted with social safety net program stakeholders and with beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries of the Old Age Allowance and Widow Allowance within Kamarkhand Upazila of Shirajgonj District in northern Bangladesh. Based on these conversations, several administrative, fiscal and informational constraints were identified that impact on the successful implementation of the social safety net programs. The Government budget for the social safety net programs is not sufficient to provide allowances for all eligible citizens. This results in the need to undertake a selection process of beneficiaries for OAA and WA. This selection process is prone to corruption and nepotism due to limited numbers of available allowances and the willingness of recipients and elected officials to engage in bribery. Applicants of benefits are sometimes declared ineligible based on erroneous date of birth information encoded on their National ID cards.

Elderly people who are the recipient of the Old Age Allowance (OAA) and Allowances for Widows and Husband’s Deserted Destitute Women (AWHDDW) or commonly known as Widow Allowance reported that the benefits are significant in their lives. The regular income supports their ability to purchase medicine and food and helps them to be seen as valued members of family units. It is important to note that, few portion of the beneficiaries of AWHDDW program are elderly women.

Based on the findings in this study, a number of recommendations are suggested. Ideally, the budget for social safety net programs should be increased to provide total coverage. This would remove the need to conduct selection of beneficiaries and the corruption that comes with this process. Until such a time that total coverage is possible, the selection process should be made as objective and transparent as possible. This would need to be supported by the establishment of trusted and authoritative information sources such as digital, searchable databases. Such information would also support more equitable distribution of allowances across the country.

Keywords: Social Protection Bangladesh, Safety Net Program in Bangladesh, Elderly People, Aging Population

Subject: Social Administration thesis, Policy and Administration thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of Social and Policy Studies
Supervisor: Dr Noore Alam Siddiquee