Social Protection in the Cook Islands: A Case Study

Partnerships for Social Protection (P4SP) commissioned this analysis to better understand the Cook Islands social protection system, how it has evolved, and the impacts it has had on the wellbeing of Cook Islanders. It comprised a review of existing literature, and the collection and analysis of administrative data provided by the Government of the Cook Islands (the Government) and the 2015-16 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) dataset (Pacific Community and the Cook Islands Statistics Office, 2022). The Cook Islands has an extensive and long-standing social protection system, with both tax-financed and contributory schemes. Since its inception in 1965, the Cook Islands social protection system has evolved and expanded, with new schemes incrementally introduced (see below). Large, universal schemes for vulnerable life stages, such as the Child Benefit and Old Age Pension, are complemented by additional means-tested support for those facing hardship, such as the Infirm Benefit, Destitute Allowance, and the Power Subsidy. Directly or indirectly, tax-financed schemes reach an estimated 91 per cent of citizens, costing 4.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021