EU contributes €35 million to strengthen social security in Bangladesh

European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, BelgiumReuters File Photo

The European Union (EU) has transferred €35 million (around 3.5 crore) to the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) to advance the national social protection reforms, in line with the 2015 National Social Security Strategy and its action plans, said a statement released by the EU on Tuesday.

This payment was made against the GoB progress in achieving agreed targets within the framework of the EU budget support operation (2019-2025) in social protection, amounting to €247 million.

The statement read that the budget support is a means of delivering effective aid to partners’ countries and of backing them to accelerate social reforms, based on their national and international commitments and priorities.

The support also aims to strengthen the capacity of the partner country in the implementation of the policy and public finance systems, and in improving the accountability of the government towards its citizens.

EU further said that in the fiscal year 2021-2022, in line with its commitments, the GoB strengthened its social protection institutional arrangements, increasing the number of beneficiaries paid through the Government to People (G2P) system and further developing the current single registry into a comprehensive database of social protection beneficiaries, for better targeting, inclusion and monitoring.

Moreover, on the programme reforms, the GoB increased the coverage of the Mother and Child Benefit Programme of 20 per cent, bringing the total number of beneficiaries from 1.045 million in FY 21-22 to 1.254 million in FY 22-23 and launched the country’s first employment injury insurance (EIS) scheme. This scheme will provide financial coverage for all workers in the 100 per cent export-oriented apparel industry in Bangladesh, for long term benefits in the event of death and permanent disability arising out of the workplace accident and injuries.

The statement also said that through the approval of the labour management information system project, the GoB paved the way for the establishment of a digital workers’ registry, which is an essential feature for the timely and effective delivery of social protection benefits.

The EU ambassador Charles Whiteley lauded the Bangladesh government for the progress.

“Social protection is a human right and a major tool to tackle poverty and social exclusion. It is also a powerful socio-economic stabilizer and a key tool to build political stability. I commend the important progress of the GoB in achieving the agreed budget support targets and especially the decision to increase investment in the early years and to develop a government-owned workers’ database,” Whiteley was quoted in the press release.

“Under the global challenging economic context, social protection expenses should not be relegated to the second plan. The EU will keep working hand in hand with the GoB to increase its domestic resource mobilization and strengthen a sustainable national social protection system to enhance people’s resilience in times of crisis and shocks,” he added.

The disbursement of this payment came after a positive decision of the Budget Support Steering Committee of the European Commission Directorate-General for International Partnership in March 2023.