A rapid impact assessment released last week by UNDP, UNWomen in collaboration with the Viet Nam Academy of Social Science, estimates that the pre-pandemic national poverty rate of 4.6% may have jumped to 26.7% in April 2020.  While transient income poverty reduced to 15.8%  in May 2020, the least improvements were observed among informal worker, ethnic minority and female-headed households. Most strikingly, the pre-pandemic poverty rate of 22.1% among ethnic minority households could have jumped to 76.3% in April and only dropped slightly to 70.3% in May 2020.
 
The assessment shows that rapid, timely social protection payments could have significantly reduced COVID-19 impact on poverty. Despite the intended results of preventing vulnerable people from falling into poverty and protecting those already poor from descending deeper into poverty, the Government’s social protection support policy faced several issues in its design and implementation. 

As a follow up action to this assessment, MOLISA and UNDP organize the workshop “Directions for Social Assistance Reform and Acceleration of Digitalization” to discuss how to make Viet Nam’s social protection system more inclusive and shock responsive. 

On behalf of UN agencies participating in the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection funded by the Joint SDG Fund, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam Ms. Caitlin Wiesen emphasized the importance of ensuring the core principle of “leaving no one behind” in the social assistance reform. 

“Experience in some provinces in Viet Nam and especially international experiences show that digitalized registration and verification of eligibility, through a single e-identity system, and e-payment solutions are key to ensuring timely and effective delivery of cash transfer to the beneficiaries,” said Ms Wiesen. “This will require a strong commitment and leadership of the central government and effective coordination of government line ministries and private service providers, such as commercial banks, mobile money, other e-payment and IT service providers”.   

In his opening remark, Vice Minister Le Tan Dung expressed his appreciation to , international organizations, especially UNDP, for g their technical assistance to MOLISA in introducing innovative solutions, such as sensemaking of the current policies on social assistance, mapping locally and internationally successful solutions and experimenting a number of selected solutions. ”With this support, we have developed the Masterplan for Social assistance Reform and Development in the 2017-2025 period, and vision till 2030 (MPSARD) and got approval from the Government,” he said. “The Masterplan has identified the goals, direction and solutions with fundamental principles and innovative approaches, such as access to social assistance based on human rights, lifecycle support and considering social protection spending as development investment. Especially during the rapid changing context of COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and aging population... UNDP has helped us to have a comprehensive view on the social assistance system and strengthen policy implementation tools, through applying information technology,  accelerating digital transformation, e.g. noncash payment”.

At the workshop, representative from the Department of Social Assistance under MOLISA presented the Current Situation and Reform Direction of Social Assistance in the New Context, focusing on regular cash transfer, emergency relief, social work/ social services, and digitalization acceleration and the Government’s needs for technical assistance The results of UNDP’s support to MOLISA in the development and implementation of e-payment and e-reporting system for the Government’s Social Protection Package for COVID-19 at the central level, and testing e-payment  in rolling out Package in five provinces was shared at the workshop. 

Representatives from the four UN agencies (ILO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP) under the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection funded by SDG fund presented the objectives and principles of social assistance reform, work-plan for technical assistance for the social assistance reform and digital transformation acceleration. 

The workshop is part of the UN Joint Program on Social Protection funded by the Joint SDG Fund. Participants in the workshop are representatives from the Office of the Government, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, State Bank of Viet Nam, Viet Nam Social Security, Women Union,  the Department Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Northern provinces, including Cao Bang, Quang Ninh, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh, Nghe An, Vinh Phuc, Thanh Hoa, Bak Kan…, as well as and E-pay service providers Viettel, VN Post, and so on./.

Khac Kien