The paper examines social protection programmes for the poor, aged and sick in Indonesia and the Philippines with the purpose of assessing their performance in effectively protecting the population. This comparative review indicates that both countries have made major advances in improving health coverage and maintaining income for the chronic poor in recent years, after decades of neglect. However, public sector workers continue to be privileged while those in informal employment continue to remain outside of effective protection. Moreover, the benefit levels for the chronic poor, the programme’s target population, are too low to provide effective protection. Finally, the paper suggests that governments in Indonesia and the Philippines need to not only improve the design of their programmes but also strengthen their policy and administrative capacity if they are to succeed.