On February 24, a team of local Macedonian researchers organized a policy conference in Skopje, to share and discuss their PEP findings on the potential use of remittances as a source of social protection. The event attracted high-profile participants from the national government and other institutions, as well as from both the public and private sectors.
In this study – selected for support under the PAGE initiative in 2014 – the researchers conduct rigorous analysis of data from the DotM 2008 Remittance Survey, and find that remittances do naturally serve as an informal source of social protection, especially amidst the most vulnerable groups of the population in Macedonia. An ex-ante impact analysis also demonstrates the potential benefits of a new policy instrument, the Remittances’ Voucher (RV) policy – designed by the PEP researchers as a mechanism to channel these income into productive use. The positive effects on the recipients’ welfare have been found even stronger for the most vulnerable groups (female, rural and young remittance receivers). Based on these findings, the team recommends that the government introduces the RV policy, as a means to framing remittances into a formal source or mechanism of social protection. Find out more about the research methods, findings and ensued policy recommendations in the following PEP publication: Policy brief 129
The main objective of the conference was to discuss, with a variety of stakeholders, the implications of these findings for policy, as well as the potential implementation of their recommendations. Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, the Ministry of Health, the Health Insurance Fund of Macedonia (FZOM), several embassies, the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), agencies for insurance supervision as well as members of the academia, the private sector and national experts. All participated actively in the discussion and provided the team with highly relevant feedbacks and comments.
Among the participants were high-level policymakers who are responsible for the design and implementation of Macedonian health and social policies. Below are reported a few comments from these stakeholders, which clearly show the positive reaction to the researchers’ findings and recommendations:
- “We have not received such interesting proposal long ago. We must seriously consider it.”
– Sofija Spasovska, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy
- “Full implementation of the policy requires additional calculations. It must be done. We should not stop here."
– Maja Zmejkova Parnardzieva, ex CEO of the Health Insurance Fund and expert in health management
- “Your example should be followed by the other researchers."
– Pavle Gacov, CEO of the consultant agency Pro Agens
The team’s presentation was followed by a roundtable discussion, during which the researchers were asked to hold a meeting with the Macedonian EU Delegation, international experts and representatives from the council of employers, which allowed further and useful discussion of the research findings and ensued recommendations., Soon after, the team leader, Dr. Blagica Petreski was invited personally by the Minister of Labor and Social Policy to discuss more specifically the recommendations regarding the implementation of the Remittance Voucher policy.
Considering the expressed commitments of the consulted policymakers to assimilate the findings and recommendations into their respective agenda, the influence of this particular research work is expected to be substantial. Indeed, in the context of current policy reforms related to eligibility to access social assistance in Macedonia, and as remittances are no longer considered as a form of revenue, both findings and proposals of the researchers are quite timely.
Finally, both the PEP-supported research findings and national conference benefited from wide media coverage, with an impressive list of (15) news reports published and broadcasted over the following days. On March 17th, the team leader was also invited as guest speakers on the Economic magazine TV show of the national TV broadcaster Alsat-M (link to the video clip). Follow this link to access photos from the event.