Poverty, Inequality and Social Protection in Myanmar

In 2014, prior to the political transition of 2015 towards democracy, the government published the Myanmar National Social Protection Strategic Plan with the aim of supporting socio-economic development, and strengthening the resilience of vulnerable people against shocks and life cycle contingencies. In this study, we take stock of the social protection system in place in Myanmar until the end of 2020, paying attention to the design features, and levels of institutionalisation of these programmes. We conduct a poverty and inequality decomposition analysis as well as a benefit-incidence analysis to examine the degree of progressivity or regressivity of these programmes. Overall, we find low coverage rates of welfare benefits, with negligible poverty reducing effects at the national level. The contribution of welfare benefits to reducing inequality is mixed, with social insurance having disequalising effects while social assistance programmes have a more equalizing contribution to the distribution of income. Further simulation analysis indicates that expanding coverage under poverty targeting approaches would produce larger welfare gains than universal approaches in the delivery of welfare benefits, irrespective of the design features of programmes.