Building the Case for a Lifecycle Social Protection System in Sri Lanka
Compounding shocks have resulted in Sri Lanka facing its worst debt and economic crisis since independence, exacerbating an already challenging situation of low, precarious and volatile incomes, and severely impacting people’s wellbeing. This study finds that these multifaceted crises have brought about a reduction in consumption and a sharp increase in poverty that has been experienced across all age groups, but particularly among households with children, who are already among the most vulnerable lifecycle group in Sri Lanka. If left unaddressed, this is likely to lead to serious welfare challenges, and it risks undermining social trust and cohesion and further weakening state-citizen relationships at a critical moment of crisis.
Sri Lanka’s current social protection system does not yet adequately address the widespread nature of low incomes and declining living standards. This study charts out an alternative approach for Sri Lanka to take the first steps towards building an inclusive social protection system that more comprehensively and adequately protects the wellbeing of all Sri Lankans over the life cycle and provides the basis for a more sustainable growth trajectory. It presents a series of options for Sri Lanka to invest in universal lifecycle programmes – a universal child benefit (UCB), universal disability benefits and a pension- tested old age benefit – which can be introduced over time to progressively build an effective national social protection floor.