Uniqueness of Myanmar Social Welfare Model
Myanmar Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement was establish in the year 1953 and the government take the responsibilities of many social welfare activities and also keep expanding, in close collaboration with may United Nations agencies and international Non-governmental organization. Nowadays, United Nations agencies, Government Organizations and both local and international NGOs are carrying out the social welfare services in Myanmar in addition to the government social welfare departments.
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The department was formed 5 years during the parliamentary democratic government era soon after the country independent from the British colonial. After that as the Myanmar undergoes for many changing of the governments, such as democratic government, socialist government and military junta so the social welfare model of Myanmar is also changing from one government to another. It is of great interest for social work field to study what is the social welfare model that Myanmar is practicing.
In this paper, I will try to discuss whether the Myanmar social welfare model can be explained by either Richard Titmuss models or Esping-Anderson models or combination or different from both. In chapter 2, I would like to do the literature review upon different definitions and models of social welfare in this chapter. In chapter 3, I would like to explain some information about the Social Welfare in Myanmar and try to identify which social welfare model can explain the practice. Chapter 4 will comprise the important of understanding Myanmar social welfare model and possible applicability of different models which might be best suited to country situation and culture so that the welfare services can provide the more efficiency towards the community.
2.1. Definitions of Social Welfare
“Social welfare includes those nonprofit functions of society, public or voluntary, which are clearly aimed at alleviating distress and poverty or at ameliorating the conditions of the casualties of society”(R Dolgoff & Feldstein, (2007).
The another definition is “all social interventions intended to enhance or maintain the social functioning of human beings”(R. Dolgoff, Feldstein, & Skolnik, 1997).
The National Association of Social Work (NASW) defined “Social Welfare as the full range of organized activities of voluntary and governmental agencies that seek to prevent, alleviate, or contribute to the solution of recognized social problems, or to improve the well-being of individuals, groups, or communities”.(NASW, 1971)
United Nations defined “Social welfare as an organized function is regarded as a body of activities designed to enable individuals, families, groups and communities to cope with the social problems of changing conditions. In addition to and extending beyond the range of its responsibilities for specific services, social welfare has a further function within the broad area of a country’s social development”. “Social welfare should play a major role in contributing to the effective mobilization and deployment of human and material resources of the country to deal successfully with the social requirements of change, thereby participating in nation-building”. (United Nations 1967)
2.2. Different models of social welfare
Richard Titmuss (1970) introduced 3 models of social welfare which includes residual model, industrial-achievement model and institutional model.
In residual model, it is charity and providing assistance in nature and the provision of social service is based upon selective either by mean testing or eligibility criteria. So, people can be socially stigmatized for the people who are receiving the social welfare services. The ideology of the residual model is based on the individual is responsible for trying to meet with the market economy and the welfare state is something to be avoided.
In industrial achievement model, it mainly focuses on the individualist upon meritocratic and the provision is upon the individual merit. Hence, the nature of social welfare service is like workfare. In a meritocracy, society rewards (via wealth, position, and social status) those who show talent and competence as demonstrated by past actions or by competition. There is no social stigma and the welfare is upon the person’s self-responsibility.
In institutional model, Social welfare is seen as a normal and “legitimate function of modern society” (R. Dolgoff, et al., 1997). There is no stigma in this approach as it is regarded as a right of citizenship and most of the programs are universal and no more selective.
Again, on the other hand, Esping-Anderson (1990) proposed that there is another three types of model namely conservative model, liberal model and social democratic model which are in fact equivalent to the Richard Titmuss (1970) 3 models of residual model, industrial-achievement model and institutional model respectively. The residual and industrial achievement models are similar in objecting excessive welfare.
Table 1: Explanation of different models from different perspectives and the countries that are currently practices
Richard Titmuss Model
France, Germany, Austria
UK, USA, Australia
Sweden, Denmark, Norway
Basis of provision
Selective (e.g. means test, eligibility)
May carry stigma
Free market, individual responsibility
Collectivist, State responsibility
Myanmar Social Welfare at a glance
3.1. Background of Myanmar Ministry of Social Welfare(YCDC, 2003)
In Myanmar, the social welfare services are provided either from the government department, the department of social welfare or directly from UN, INGO and NGO services towards the community and vulnerable people. But still, as the government is military junta, every service either from the government or from the agencies need the government official approval in prior to any activities/services.
When looking at the Ministry level, it has instituted three departments, the social welfare department, fire services department and relief and resettlement department.
In addition to the three departments, the government has designated the Ministry of Social welfare, Relief and Resettlement as three national focal points Myanmar national Committee for women’s affairs, National Committee on the Rights of the Childs Myanmar and National Committee on Social Development.
Social Welfare in Myanmar claimed that they aim at helping towards a mutual adjustment of vulnerable and their social environment. The ministry has the following objectives of social welfare:
1. To assist the vulnerable groups so as to reintegrate into the society through social work methods.
2. To resettle and rehabilitate victims of disasters.
3. To make our country free from fire hazard.
4. To encourage the non-governmental organizations to participate in national movement for social development.
5. To train and form the fire service personnel and voluntary fire-men to become the reserve force to safeguard peace and stability of the state.
In addition to the above objectives, the followings are the adopted policy of the Ministry.
1. Equalization of opportunities fore vulnerable group in Myanmar society.
2. The government attaches a high priority to the welfare of children, youth, women, national races residing in the disabled, the aged, socially handicapped and disadvantaged groups.
3. Responsible for rendering relief and resettlement services to victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms, floods and fire disasters.
The Union of Myanmar has also promulgated laws to ensure the rights and to protect the Citizen. Among the laws three are some basis laws which are directly concerned with Department of Social Welfare (DSW) to implement Social welfare programmes and for the protection of the socially handicapped citizens. These laws and regulation are Prostitution Suppression Act, 1949, Disabled Persons Employment Act, 1958 and The Child Law, 1993 under basic law. There are also 3 other related law present which are Registration of Kittima Adoption Ad, 1941. , Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association Law (MMCWA), 1991 and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance law, 1993.
The DSW implements social welfare services in eight different areas of social needs by both direct and indirect means. The different types of social welfare services includes child welfare service, youth welfare service, women welfare service, care of the aged, rehabilitation of disabled, rehabilitation of ex-drug addicts, rehabilitation and socialization of Vagrants and grant-in-aid to voluntary Organization.
According to local needs and situations, the contribution of social services has been made by the Non-governmental organization (NGOs) with the collaboration of community. At present, with the encouragement of the government there has been abundance of NGOs in Myanmar national as well as international NGOs.
Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs (MNCWA) was formed on 3 July 1996, to implement activities for the advancement of women systematically. Subsequently, the Myanmar National Working Committee for Women’s Affair (MNWCWA) was formed on 7 October 1996, to facilitate the activities. The government also designated the Ministry of Social welfare, Relief and Resettlement as the National Focal Point for Women’s Affairs.
Myanmar has acceded to the convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and the Child Law was enacted in 1993. The National Committee on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) was formed in October 1993, headed by the Minister of Social Welfare.
The Department is implementing social development programmes in collaboration with the Asia and Pacific as well as ASEAN member countries.
In addition to the above services provided by Ministry of Social Welfare, the department is also involved in conducting the Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work which was recently started in 2006. Previously there is no social work training in the country even though the objective number 1 of Ministry which includes providing the services with social work methods. This course is funded by UNICEF, joint with Department of Social Welfare and Department of Psychology (Yangon University).
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3.2. Analysis of the Myanmar Social Welfare Model
Even thought the ministry set up the objectives, we can found out that they did not have clear objective upon how to help and provide services towards the vulnerable and oppressed people. And also the policy and the objectives are only at the policy level and never reach to the implementation level. The staffs from the department of social welfare are civil servants and they are not motivated at all due to their low pay salary and no learning opportunities for their services.
The nature of the Myanmar Social Welfare is mixed in nature as the government did not provide the direct services to the people. The services are coming mostly from the UN/INGO/NGO and some community based organizations with in terms of charity and humanitarian assistance. Even though the Government claimed that the services are universal to all but still far away from the actual coverage as there is no citizen rights at all in the country.
The basis of provision of social welfare either universal or selective is also depend upon in the project agreement with the donor agencies and their funding policy. Compulsary education of up to 5th grade is funded by Unicef so it is universal to all the children of the country. Universal immunization programme (UCI) and expanded programme for immunization (EPI) are funded by Unicef, JICA, Japan Vaccines, AusAid so all the children under 5 years of age received the all the vaccinations under the health programme free.
But on the other hand, in public housing, it is not provided to general public. The government provided only to the government civil servants but even not all the civil servants received the housing. Only the higher level officials received the public housing. But all the military servants receive the public housing. So, we can term it as highly selective with bias and might not term it as social welfare service.
Social security is also received only the civil servants especially towards the military servants and the government did not take into account of the general public or community. The government health care is cost sharing in nature and all the patients need to provide the cost of the medicines and diagnostic and laboratory charges. The other charges such as doctors’ fees, nurses’ fees, room fees are free when they are admitted to the government hospitals.
There is a department called Medical Social Work department in most of the big hospital but they are no more functioning at all now. They just present as a one of the required structure for the hospital. The staffs are also not trained by proper social work techniques but if the patient is too poor to buy the required medicines or something, they can contact to this medical social worker. If there is any money, donated by anybody, is present in this medical social work department, they provided to this poor patient. If not, they cannot provide any support and it is some form of charity based assistance.
Family, children and youth services are based upon the residential care approach as the department of social welfare has many training schools for youth, children and even for women. In fact, these training schools are the same as the detention centre or care centre and not all the youth and children staying there are allowed to go out of this so called training school. There is no proper service setting providing towards family violence and child abuse even though there are high rate of such cases inside the country. As the government accede the UNCRC, and they formed National CRC, state and divisional CRC and even township CRC all over the country but all these are not functioning at all.
There are some government owned NGO (GONGO) such as Myanmar maternal and child welfare association (MMCWA) and Myanmar Women Affairs Federation (MWAF) but they are also only the political figures and helping towards some cases of family violence, gender based violence (GBV) and child abuse but as they are also not trained social workers in their organization, the services that they provided are also like material supports based upon the charity and humanitarian assistance approach. There is no systematically helping towards the vulnerable.
One of the important components of the social welfare services, the elderly services are also provided by INGO/NGO mainly. The government provide very small amount of money and official registration to these home for aged. The department of social welfare did not have any residential care facilities towards the aged.
Social services provided towards disability peoples and rehabilitation service is also one of the weak areas in Myanmar. The rehabilitation is mainly towards the disable from the military servants who has lost their legs due to mine in the frontiers. INGO/NGO are now trying to work towards the community based rehabilitation programme with the permission of the government.
Many of the community development are organized and implemented by the UN/INGO/NGO and government Ministry of Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs. But this government ministry is mainly focused upon the material development such as road, bridges etc and not emphasize on the human and social capital development.
There are no specialised services or agencies working for the ex-prisoner or offender. The government has correctional department under the ministry of Home Affairs which is also known as department of prisons. After the offender release from the prison, there is no follow up or social welfare services towards them. And also there is no agencies working upon these peoples.
There is only one training school for the whole country where all the juvenile delinquent are detained and provided the correctional training. Still the staffs assigned in this training school are not trained social workers.
There is no social stigma upon receiving the social welfare services and even the people are proud of receiving the social welfare service assistance because very few peoples received these services.
Government ideology upon social welfare is to make the social control upon the community. The government did not implementing services or even not they implemented, they are not efficiently implemented. They did excess intervention towards policy upon the providing the services by the agencies.
According to the situational analysis of the social welfare services present in the country Myanmar, the current model that the government implementing is not either residual or industrial achievement or institutional model. And also there is no specific model because the department does the services at ad hoc basic depending upon the project proposed by the UN/INGO/NGO. Due to the ruling by the military junta, the department of social welfare did not have budget for their welfare services and so the department stands only as a focal point/liaison between the agencies and the government. And most of the agencies need to provide the services under the name of the department of social welfare.
On conclusion, it is difficult to identify what is the social welfare model of Myanmar currently. But the country is in the transition stage from military junta to the multi-party election in the year 2010. And the general constitution is already drawn but still specific policies and rules will set up in the next newly elected government. So, we all hope that there will be a proper model for Myanmar social welfare in the hand of new government.
Dolgoff, R., & Feldstein, D. ((2007). Understanding Social Welfare: A Search for Justice (7th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Dolgoff, R., Feldstein, D., & Skolnik, L. (1997). Examining a social welfare program: Structural components, alternative program characteristics, and evaluation (4th ed.). New York: Longman.
NASW. (1971). Encyclopedia of Social Work (Vol. II).
YCDC. (2003). Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
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