in: Rana Jawad / Nicola Jones / Mahmood Messkoub (eds.), Social policy in the Middle East and North Africa: the new social protection paradigm and universal coverage, Cheltenham: Elgar, 35-60
Social protection schemes have a triple function in the development process: social, economic and political. Their social function is to prevent and reduce poverty and inequality. The economic function is to reduce risk and thereby encourage people to become economically active, invest and ultimately generate employment and growth. And the political function is to promote social inclusion and cohesion and thereby stabilize state and society. Social protection schemes must however meet a number of conditions in order to fully fulfil these three functions. This chapter explores these debates in the context of the Arab region to argue that social security schemes, which are in place the Arab countries, do not meet these conditions. As a result, they do not fulfil well their social and economic function. At best, they take their political function but only to the degree that this is in line with the interests of the predominantly authoritarian regimes in the region: Social protection schemes in Arab countries tend to suffer from limited coverage in terms of people, risks and compensation levels. They tend to redistribute bottom up rather than progressively. They tend to be segmented and thereby replicate the existing social stratification. And they tend to care mainly for the politically influential urban middle classes rather than the poor, the self-employed or informal sector workers. This finding constitutes a challenge for development co-operation, which is meant to help if countries are unable to implement dearly needed reforms on their own but cannot do much if governments are unwilling to implement these reforms.