Social assistance, one of the key components and important pillars of the social security system in Vietnam, need further reform to meet expanding demand by the public An insight by the Vietnam Business Forum - the weekly magazine of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Over recent years, the Government has prioritised resources to ensure social security, particularly poverty reduction and job creation, and offered social assistance to vulnerable groups.

However, there remain many limitations in the social security system in Vietnam in general and social assistance in particular, which makes it hard to meet the expanding demand of social security and social assistance for many people.

According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), the main reason for that is that the social security and social assistance system has not been completed, social security and social assistance policies still lack of system, investment resources remain limited, and assistance levels haven’t been based on minimum living needs and the coverage level is still low.

To overcome these shortcomings, the MOLISA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have launched a project to help Vietnam implement commitment on reforming the system of social assistance policies.

The project "Support to improve the system of social assistance policy" in the 2013-2016 period will contribute to the implementation of Resolution 15’s orientation on improving social assistance system based on the minimum standard of living.

The project will be towards a reform agenda aimed at building a more effective system of social assistance policies to reach more people and create a higher level of benefits for the most vulnerable groups.

Through the project, the content of improving the system of social assistance policies will be determined. The project will support the development of a roadmap for the reform of social assistance as well as support the reform of the system of social assistance.

According to Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Trong Dam, the 11th Party Central Committee issued Resolution 15-NQ/TW on a number of social policy issue of the 2012-2020 period, advocating the reform of social security system.

The system needs to be built under the new approach, on the basis of ensuring human rights to become more systematic, towards multi-layering, flexible and able to support each other. It is important to form the social security system based on a unified standard which is determined according to the needs of the minimum living standard of people, MOLISA leading officials said.

It is also critical to solve multi-dimensional causes in order to prevent, decrease and address social risks for everyone. Along with the social security system is the innovation of the social assistance system, they added.

Deputy Country Director of UNDP Bakhodir Burkhanov reaffirmed the goal of building a more effective and cohesive social support system to be able to expand coverage and increase the level of support for vulnerable people, thus sustain and promote better outcomes for poverty reduction and social development of Vietnam as a middle-income country in the coming years.

However, according to him, there are still some challenges in implementing this goal, including building a common vision and roadmap for harmonisation and rationalisation arrangement of more than 40 different policies and mechanisms on social assistance currently being carried out for 23 vulnerable groups and classified based on seven different aspects of risks or needs. At the same time, it is crucial to enhance the ability to provide timely and efficient service through the social assistance system for those in need, in the context of rapidly growing demand for support while the budget remains limited.

Burkhanov said: "The project is designed to address some of these challenges. Specifically, it would help policy makers identify vision based on full information, research viable options and develop a roadmap for the reform of the system of social assistance policies. The project will also support activities on sharing international experience and consultation to create consensus in defining priorities and steps to achieve this goal."

The new project will be followed by a series of discussions supported by the UNDP over the last five years to establish a platform for social protection plans and direction of social assistance reform in Vietnam.

The project will complement the other reform efforts including technical support of GIZ organisation for social security programmes; the research on Social Protection Floor and social pension mechanisms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), cash assistance programmes for children and pregnant women supported by the World Bank in collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund./.