Social Protection as Redistribution: the evidence for Asia from Latin America 1

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1 1 Social Protection as Redistribution: the evidence for Asia from Latin America 1 Ana Sojo 2 I. On the links between the concentrated nature of economic growth, employment and social protection Employment is the most important link between economic and social development, because it is the main source of household income; about 80% of the total in the region. Access to employment, work and dismissal conditions, earnings levels, and social protection play a decisive role on the level and distribution of material well-being and on social cohesion. As ECLAC has show in the Social Panorama, during the 1990s, about 70% of new jobs created were in the informal sector; this had middle and long term consequences for workers and their families; for instance, less consumption smoothing through pensions and less private investments in education. Since then job quality has improved 3. In Latin America the concentrated nature of economic growth has been an important source of exclusion and segmentation, determining the high poverty and social inequalities levels that are then reproduced over time, as it is reflected in the high and persistent income concentration, despite some modest recent reductions. Informality is associated with low quality and low productive jobs and with the missing linkage with the protection systems in place. Lack of regulation and of supervision of the labour market enables elusion and non compliance of contributions. With a diverse intensity in the different countries, the job quality divide shows different patterns of exclusion of coverage of the mandatory contributory systems. This, added to limited institutional capacity in the countries, barriers to entry to many contributory protection systems and the corporate logic of some of them are the main causes of the limited coverage of the social protection systems. 1 Presentation at the Seminar on Economic Growth and Social Protection in Asia, Salzburg Global Seminar, Salzburg, November Some tables and graphs that provide empirical basis for the arguments are shown in the related power point. 2 Senior Expert at the Social Development Division of ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, United Nations) in Santiago, Chile 3 The proportion of informality would be higher if we extend the definition of informal employment to workers in formal businesses who lack full social and employment protection; for instance without contracts, and that don t pay taxes and social security contributions. The definition of informality by sectors used here, treats as informal or low-productivity workers those self-employed (other than professionals and technicians), in microenterprises (private-sector wage earners and owners of companies with up to five employees, excluding those with a university education in both cases), unpaid family work and domestic service. The International Labour Organization (ILO) has extended the definition of informal working to include insecure employment in any sector of the economy.

2 2 Within that frame, when social protection has only a contributory or corporate basis it can become exclusive. But not only poor people are excluded, as we can see, and this is an aspect that provides a basis for a universal protection system, financed on the grounds of the solidarity principle that enables redistribution. II. The fragmentation of social protection should be avoided. Once put in place, it is very difficult to reform Security and equality can be ideals and goals that require extended social policies by creating universal, comprehensive, and tax and/or contribution financed social security. Establishing public, universal institutions of social security, education, health care and public housing, with transfers and services financed out of general taxation and contributions has not been the general trend in the region, and this has lead to a fragmentation of programs. And fragmentation of social protection is not suitable for worker mobility, a trend that will increase in the midst of technological innovation and globalization. Far from providing universal social protection, based in the solidarity principle, three basic types of benefits have emerged in Latin America: (i) those associated with contribution-financed social security systems to protect workers and their families; (ii) those directly subsidized and provided by the public sector to meet the needs of the poorest; and (iii) those people pay for themselves. Therefore, the financing of social protection and the scope and quality of benefits are deeply segmented, leading to large differences in quality, prices and timing of access (ECLAC, 2006 and 2007) Social protection shows different stages of development across the countries of the region. For instance, the taxonomy by Mesa Lago (according to coverage of the labour force and population, sufficiency and quality of benefits, equal treatment and social solidarity, gender equality, efficiency and administrative costs and financial sustainability) distinguish three groups of countries - pioneer-high developed, intermediate develop and late comer-low developed (referred to as 1, 2 and 3 respectively) based on 11 variables 4. Despite reordering of some countries, along the last 3 decades the grouping has changed little (Mesa Lago, 2010; summarized in Table 1). 4 Year the programme began, coverage of the economically active population (EAP) and the total population, social security expenditures as a percentage of the GDP, fiscal transfers, financial balance, ratio of active workers to a pensioner, population ageing and life expectancy.

3 3 Rather than having a multiplicity of subsystems whose logic differ depending on the insurer or provider involved (public, social security or private) and in order to avoid skimming of the beneficiary population, with coverage and quality depending on their individual risks and on their ability to pay, the provision and regulation of the social protection must be integrated in a system, with financing organized in accordance with a common logic, that aims at risk pooling and solidarity. Consequently, reforms to bring subsystems into an integrated social protection system need also to regulate market and private options, with rules aimed at striking the right balance between public and private efforts so that individually, socially and publicly desirable and combinable objectives are achieved. The lack of an integrated system of this kind has been a recurrent problem in Latin America (ECLAC, 2007). The goal of extending health coverage by sequencing and unifying the rules of the social protection systems either through social insurance or the public system has been undermined by inertia und by corporate interest. One good example of the difficulties to build up a national health system is the case of México, where the main institutions in charge of health and of the health insurance have been the cornerstone of corporate arrangements between the State and the politically organized social groups, through its bureaucracy and unions (González, 2005). At the beginning of 2004, the Social Health Protection System (Seguro Popular en Salud) was created to broaden the coverage; at that time, average per capita public spending on those covered by social insurance was 85% greater than spending on the uninsured. The structure and financing of the new insurance is too complex and has high transaction costs, bringing a non-trivial issue to the fore, which is both an institutional and organizational challenge: that is, how providers use and efficiently combine different resources, including resources that have singular access mechanisms, criteria for assignment, budgetary regimes, types of transfers, programming and implementation of resource flows, and implicit or explicit incentives in terms of how they are managed (Sojo, 2006). Seen in the light of the multiple problems brought up by the fragmentation of social protection in Latin America, we find very sensible the proposals of Barr and Diamond on the pension reform in China that foster a strategy in which benefits should be designed to have a national structure, and to move toward a track such that eventually everyone will be covered by a single national contributory pension system, with unified administration, finance and rules (Barr and Diamond, 2010).

4 4 III. Fiscal capacity must be strengthen in order to find revenues to enforce redistribution Due to the characteristics of the labour market, and especially in times of a global economic crisis, is very important in Latin America to assign financial priority to the maintenance and to the extension of contributory coverage, and to develop coordinated contributory and non-contributory programmes financed with fiscal transfers, or contributory and subsidized regimes with fiscal transfers, or public systems with subsidies granted to poor and low-income groups. The interaction of public finances and social protection depend on decisive factors such as the size and composition of the tax burden, countercyclical rules for social spending and its flexibility, the orientation of spending in the social sectors and subsectors according to its progressive or regressive impact on equity, and clear and enforceable rules for explicit contingent liabilities when different public and private agents are involved in providing benefits (ECLAC, 2007). In Latin America the tax burden averages 17% of GDP, which is well below the figures for the European Union (41%), the OECD (36%) and the United States (26%). With the exception of Brazil, the level of taxation in many countries is very low. The overall situation is very uneven, since differences in taxation between countries are almost as great as those between developed and developing countries: while the tax burden in Brazil has averaged 31% of GDP over the last 15 years, in countries such as Guatemala and Haiti it has remained consistently below 10% (Gómez Sabaini, 2006). By their taxation levels, three groups of countries can be distinguished. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina have the highest tax burden; Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and the Dominican Republic have an intermediate level of taxation; and the lowest tax burdens are to be found in Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Paraguay and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Ib.). Tax systems have regressive effects in most of the countries; i.e., they have not even maintained the income distribution arising from the workings of the market. These outcomes are the result of tax systems that rely heavily on indirect taxes and of benefits and exemptions that go mainly to higher-income sectors. This is in contrast to developed countries, whose tax structures show that it is feasible to reverse the concentrated primary distribution resulting from the action of the market to achieve a more egalitarian income distribution (ECLAC, 2007)

5 5 The overall tax burden in most of the countries is about a third lower on average than it should be given their per capita income levels; in absolute terms, their tax burdens should be three to four points of GDP higher, and the extra resources raised would provide the funding for social programmes and non-contributory social security systems. On the other hand, simulations of changes in tax structures and concentration curves show how difficult a progressive system is to bring about under current circumstances. The relative share of income tax in the tax structure needs to increase significantly (given a constant level of concentration) or indirect taxes need to be reformed in order to make them far more progressive (Gómez Sabaini, 2006). In any scenario, it is essential to ensure the quality of taxation and not jeopardize economic competitiveness with excessively high tax rates or poor quality. 5 Public finances have a vital role to play by helping to transform the access to benefits, i.e., by moving from a situation in which people are treated as contributors of specific taxes in their capacity as employees and of copayments as service users, to one that emphasizes people s status as citizens with guaranteed, enforceable rights, with financing provided through a combination of contributory and non-contributory funds, and with clear solidarity mechanisms. This is the citizenship principle that should guide current reforms to social protection systems (CEPAL, 2006). We should take into account that a broad part of the population, not only the poor, are excluded from social protection; a fact that within a suitable political framework can lay a foundation for solidarity and redistribution in the financing and for social cohesion. IV. Considering redistribution, privatization has not been a good policy tool: it has been costly and it has increased inequalities In order to analyze the redistribution capabilities of social protection, the weight of redistribution as criteria for good design of the protection systems should embrace the entire health and pension systems and their effects over time. It is mistaken to consider in isolation one portion of the system, because policy tools actually interact directly or indirectly; for instance by posing financial pressures toward the tax system. Considering one objective in isolation what Barr and Diamond in their analysis of pension systems call tunnel vision- can favor one objective, by simplifying its effects and distortions that are shifted to a different portion of the system; for instance, shifting income redistribution. Then, proper analysis needs to consider the system as a whole (Barr and Diamond, 2010, p.10). 5 An important debate is in progress in Brazil on the quality of taxation in the framework of the country s high tax burden.

6 6 The multiple objectives of the social protection systems cannot all be achieved fully at the same time, and thus policy deals with a broad range of objectives. For instance, the balance among consumption smoothing, poverty relief and insurance will depend in each society on the weights given to those and other objectives, and redistribution should also be seen in this light. In order to consider how redistribution within the protection systems (health/pension systems) affects the labour market, economic growth and income distribution, the analysis needs to embrace the systems and its effects over time. It can lead to mistaken analysis to consider one portion of the system (for instance pooled or individual risks) in isolation. Even in the case of individual pension accounts, risk pooling one of the main goals of insurance, and especially of social insurance- should be searched. For instance, in variants of a notional defined contribution, the assets of the pension systems and their returns are not held in individual accounts, attributed to individual workers; rather the contributions of each worker are accumulated using a rate that is set by legislation to reflect what the system can afford to pay in benefits, and that way the system does have a buffer stock of assets, but these are centrally held as backing for the entire system and not attributed to the individual accounts separately (Barr and Diamond, 2010). But that has not been the case in Latin America, where risk pooling in individual accounts has been absent. As Barr and Diamond (2010, p. 50) methodologically state: the design of pensions differs according to different principles and their primary purposes. In Latin America, the Chilean pension reform, introduced under the dictatorship of Pinochet, was justified on the grounds that the contributory intergenerational contract system, organized in the form of pay-as-you-go (PAYGO), had become unsustainable in fiscal terms and had low coverage levels. A funded individual account system, that is mandatory for formal workers and privately managed under the administration of the AFP, should address these features as well as increase national saving, deepen the development of the financial market, and improve allocation of savings to productive investment. Workers may take their pensions as inflation-indexed annuities (purchased from highly-regulated insurance companies) or as phased withdrawals from the individual accounts. But pensioner poverty, low coverage, women discrimination in the pension calculation and high administrative charges and fiscal costs are some of the problems that have arisen in the mean time. In 2008, a noncontributory basic pension was introduced, that when mature will go to roughly 60 percent of the elderly population. The transition cost of the individual accounts pension reform must be considered. If it is substitutive and completely eliminates the PAYGO pillar, the contributions of workers already made to the system that ceased to exist should be recognized and the scope of this recognition has to be decided; a less generous recognition (capped, not adjusted, no interest earned,

7 7 previous contributions required), in order to reduce fiscal costs, is detrimental to the general welfare of the insured. In our region, the Chilean reform was the most generous of all the government recognized the whole value of contributions with no upper ceiling, adjusted them for inflation and paid an interest on the value but it was also the most onerous from a fiscal standpoint. Other reforming countries of the region opted for less generous and less expensive options (as to recognize contributions only to some workers or only the years of contributions but not the value of the contributions made) (Titelman et.al. 2009). In the analysis of the fulfillment of the goals of the reform, one should not only focus in the explicit objectives argued by the reformers, but in the ones that, from the very beginning, could be reached within the characteristics of that particular system. It was a singular reform worldwide, because it was based on individual accounts nurtured by compulsory financing, but without any mechanism to pool risks. The primary purposes of the design were individual consumption smoothing through individual pension accounts, channeled to the captive market of the mandate contributions which the financial administrators (AFPs) could compete for, and the ability to develop profitable private financial institutions based on the administration of the funds, given the high administrative costs and profits involved. Without having the experience of a mature system and with a lot of trust in the financing markets, this Chilean reform was unfortunately soon exported to other countries in the region and elsewhere. Unfortunately in Chile the norms that regulate their investment portfolios regulation and the institutions in charge have not been able to guarantee a good supervision of the investment portfolios. After the 2008 reform, the investment portfolios were deregulated, and riskier investment were allowed (Rivera, 2010). Without still applying these new norms, the losses of the pension funds in 2008 were very high, while the profitability of the financial administrator suffered much less. Between 12 and 13% of contributions are currently used for administrative charges and returns to private firms. On the other hand, unfortunately the AFPs either have always been able to oversee the performance of companies by monitoring firms, exercising shareholder voting rights, and being represented on the boards of some companies. The recent bankrupt of the retailer La Polar, which was rescheduling debts of low income people in a hidden and involuntary form, has shown the weakness of the regulatory agencies in Chile and has meant big losses for small stakeholders and for the pension funds. On the other hand, because of its very nature that allows risk-skimming, the privatisation of health insurance in Chile has been a source of profits. And in the case of the health insurance reform in Colombia, that aim to bring together competition and solidarity, the transaction costs of the competition among insurers and suppliers

8 8 of services have been too high, diverting resources that should have been invested in providing better and cheaper health services. The lack of regulation has also made possible moral hazard behaviors, shown in corrupt dealings that now are being scrutinized. V. Social provision of care must be a pillar of social protection systems If citizenship is to be forged on a basis of equality and recognition of gender difference, autonomy and freedom of choice in the sphere of reproduction and care need to become a source of specific rights. Given the link that exists between State, market, family and community in the different types of State and welfare regimes, the diversification of family structures heightens the need for a system of policies and programmes to reconcile family and work in which a gender equity approach is used to pursue a more balanced consensus on the underpinnings of wellbeing. If social provision of care tasks becomes a source of social rights, social protection systems need to make provision for the care economy and the concomitant service infrastructure for the different age groups. This means financing, organizing and regulating a network of public, private and mixed bodies to provide the infrastructure needed to meet society s demand for care (CEPAL, 2007). The public policies in the realm of care imply new balances of the interrelations between State, market and families, and can aim at very diverse objectives that can interact positively in the course of the time: to foster the development of the skills and capacities of early childhood by means of early interventions that are critical for the cognitive development and that can shorten social inequalities; to care for the well-being of vulnerable and frail elderly through a range of interventions that promote their activity and autonomy and act against their social isolation; to broad the vital options of the relatives in charge of the care; to narrow the opportunities gaps between women and men; to increase women employability; to reduce poverty and the vulnerability of the homes to fall in poverty, while increasing the capacity of women of low income groups to have decent jobs; to support higher fertility rates that reflect the free exercise of reproductive rights by leveling off the obstacles to conciliate reproductive and labor life, and -last but not least- to favor the sustainability of the financing of the social protection by changing demographic trends, moving towards higher fertility rates in rapidly aging countries (Sojo, 2011). Equity, development and citizenship sum up the three key challenges facing the region in the sphere of development policy. The attainment of equity requires an equitable, inclusive social policy that is founded upon the principles of universality, solidarity and efficiency. Seen in that light, education and employment are the two master keys to block the intergenerational reproduction of poverty and inequality, but the reinforcement of comprehensive

9 9 social security systems and the prioritization of redistributive social expenditure are equally essential components. Bibliography Barr, Nicholas and Peter Diamond (2010), Pension Reform in China: Issues, Options and Recommendations, London School of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ECLAC (2007), Social cohesion. Inclusion and sense of belonging in Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago (2006), Shaping the future of social protection: Access, financing and solidarity, Santiago (2001, 2002 and 2003), Social Panorama (2000), Equity, development and citizenship Gómez Sabaini, Juan Carlos (2006), Cohesión social, equidad y tributación. Análisis y perspectivas para América Latina, CEPAL, serie Políticas sociales, Nº 127 p-bottom.xslt González-Rossetti, Alejandra (2005), La factibilidad política de las reformas del sector social en América Latina, CEPAL, Serie estudios y perspectivas N 39, México Mesa-Lago Carmelo (2010) World Crisis Effects on Social Security in Latin America and the Caribbean: Lessons and Policies, The Institute for the Study of the Americas of the University of London, London Rivera Urrutia, Eugenio (2010), El impacto de la crisis financiera global en el sistema chileno de capitalización individual: lecciones respecto de los desafíos regulatorios, en Antonio Prado y Ana Sojo (2010), Envejecimiento en América Latina. Sistemas de pensiones y protección social integral, Libros de la CEPAL No. 110, Santiago de Chile

10 10 Sojo, Ana (2011) De la evanescencia a la mira. El cuidado como eje de políticas y de actores en América Latina, CEPAL, Series Seminarios y conferencias No. 67, Santiago de Chile, p-bottom.xsl (2006) Health benefits guarantees in Latin America: equity and quasimarket restructuring at the beginning of the Millennium, CEPAL, Serie estudios y perspectivas Mexico, (2003), Social vulnerability, insurance and risk diversification in Latin America and the Caribbean, CEPAL Review No. 80, Santiago Titelman Daniel, Cecilia Vera and Esteban Pérez (2009) Pension System Reform in Latin America and Potential Implications for the Chinese Case, The Ideas Working Paper Series 06/2009

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