Social safety nets – predictable cash grants to poor households often in exchange for children going to school or going for regular health check-ups – have become one of the most effective poverty reduction strategies, helping the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks. Each year, safety net programs in developing countries lift an estimated 69 million people living in absolute poverty and uplifting some 97 million people from the bottom 20 percent – a substantial contribution in the global fight against poverty.
Photo: Sergio Amaral/MDS
In a world riddled with complexity, the simplicity of universal basic income grants (BIGs) is alluring: just give everyone cash. Excerpts of such radical concepts have been put in practice across the globe, with the launch of a pilot in Kenya, results from India, a coalition in Namibia, an experiment in Finland, a pilot in the Unites States, a referendum in Switzerland, and the redistribution of dividends from natural resources in Alaska and elsewhere.
As many as one billion children under the age of 18 experience some form of violence every year. This exposure is not only a violation of child rights; it can also hamper children’s cognitive development, mental health, educational achievement, and long-term labor market prospects.
Meanwhile, an estimated 1.9 billion people in 136 countries benefit from some type of social safety net, such as cash transfers and public works that target the poor and vulnerable—presenting a vast policy instrument with potential to help prevent childhood violence.
For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governance, gender equality, conflict and fragility, preventing and adapting to climate change, and, finally, creating jobs.
Seawater is rising in coastal Bangladesh. The soil contains more and more salt as the sea encroaches on the land. As a result, farmers see their crops declining. Communities are hollowing out, as working-age adults move to cities. Freshwater fish are disappearing, reducing the amount of protein in local diets. And in the dry season, mothers have to ration drinking water for their children – in some areas, to as little as two glasses a day.
Climate change is finally being taken seriously in the developed world, but it is generally seen as a future threat, to be managed over the coming years. For poor people in poor countries, particularly those living along coastlines, in river deltas, or on islands, it is a clear and present danger – and increasingly, a dominant fact of life.
In a world increasingly filled with risk and potential, social protection systems help individuals and families cope with civil war, natural disaster, displacement, and other shocks.
Social protection systems also help people find jobs, allow them to meet their basic needs while also investing in the health and education of their children, and protect the elderly and other vulnerable groups. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports universal access to social protection, which is central to its goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity. We also have projects that are directly or indirectly supporting humanitarian work around the world.
As the World Humanitarian Summit approaches, the buzz around humanitarian issues is reaching fever pitch (see here, here and here). This is complemented by a growing literature on how government safety nets such as cash transfer programs can be ‘scalable’ in response to shocks (see here and here).
Amidst the excitement, the distinction between humanitarian assistance and safety nets is not always clear: how do they differ? Are they complementary or alternatives? What are the trade-offs? In a recent note, I tried to explore some these quandaries.
Safety nets have the potential to play an important role in protecting the well-being of poor and vulnerable households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the world’s poorest region—and also one of the most unequal—targeted social program transfers are an effective way to fight poverty and ensure shared prosperity. But social safety net resources are limited and identification of households with the greatest need is difficult in most African countries. Evidence of effective safety net program targeting is needed to justify using existing resources, to gain support for additional investments, and to guide country efforts to improve social safety net coverage of both long-term (chronic) poor and short-term (transient) poor households.