In March 2022, Jamaica launched a Joint Programme (JP) through the UN Joint SDG Fund to modernize existing social protection systems towards building a more adapted, shock-responsive and inclusive system, valued at approximately US$1,1 million. The JP, Modernizing the Social Protection System in Jamaica, has been working with the Government to strengthen Jamaica’s social protection system, enabling it to be shock and gender-responsive, which is key to accelerating efforts to end poverty and vulnerability, reducing people's and communities’ exposure to risks. The programme recognizes the multi-hazard environment that citizens are exposed to and has been working towards enhancing their capacity to manage economic, social, environmental and other natural hazard risks.
Dr. Garry Conille, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean in UNICEF (Former United Nations Resident Coordinator) explained that “this Joint Programme will help enhance Jamaica’s ‘rainy day’ protection, especially for female-headed households and women working in the informal sector, and families with children and people with disabilities”.
Representatives from WFP in discussion with some of the participants of a FGD hosted in Clarendon, Jamaica as part of enhancing SP digital payment systems A survey conducted by the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) and UNICEF revealed the difficult realities faced by Jamaican families in coping with the impact of COVID-19. The findings showed that 80% of households reported a reduced income during the pandemic, with significantly greater loss for families in the lower socio-economic brackets. The survey also found that only 50% of families had enough to support the household’s basic needs for a maximum of two weeks. Likewise, a 2022 CARICOM and WFP Survey found that 57% of respondents had faced job loss or reduced income due to the pandemic.
The Joint Programme has been working to introduce tools to better identify persons who face acute socio-economic challenges due to major shocks, such as pandemics and disasters, and strengthen the mechanisms and systems utilized by the Government to provide support to beneficiaries. A series of consultants have been held with beneficiaries of social assistance programmes, as well as financial service providers toward improving payment processes and modalities.
Director, Social Protection and Gender at the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Collette Robinson notes that “The thrust of the project remains relevant to the direction and trajectory of planning in the area of social protection”. The Project which will be implemented over two years is an important step in building the resilience of vulnerable groups, especially in the context of the increasing frequency, magnitude, and intensity of shocks. Robinson believes that “the work of ongoing key stakeholders participate in a User Journey session hosted in Kingston as part of efforts to improve digital payment systems and improve financial inclusion reforms to create a responsive SP system will definitely benefit from this modernization project”.
As several key aspects of institutional improvements have been highlighted and are aligned both with our (Jamaica’s) national goals and global agendas, Hon. Karl Samuda, Minister of Labour and Social Security notes that “Undoubtedly, this Joint Programme will offer no less than positive results for Jamaica, especially at this time, when the country is rebounding and recovering stronger from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.”