Labor and Social Protection
In the last decade, conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs are probably the key social policy innovation around the world and in the East Asia and Pacific region. The targeted programs offer money to poor households on the condition they make pre-specified investments in the human capital of children. Typically, this involves school enrollment and attendance, and basic preventive health activities such as periodic checkups, growth monitoring, and vaccinations for young children.
A woman explains a project to restore education in the part of Gansu, China, hit by last May's earthquake. Grassroots civil society organizations proposed innovative project ideas this week addressing development issues at the China Development Marketplace.
Poor people are poor because markets fail them and governments fail them. That markets fail them is well-known. Failures in capital markets mean that young people cannot get loans to finance their education; imperfect or nonexistent insurance markets mean that poor people will not get decent health care if left to unfettered markets; economies of scale as well as the simple fact that basic services such as water are necessities mean that markets will not ensure that poor people will get the services they need to survive. As
Chris Blattman is right to question my enthusiasm for information as the solution to seemingly intractable development problems. (By the way, thanks for the complimentary plug for AfricaCan, Chris). Information by itself is not useful unless people can do something with it.
When we visited a poor village in Qingxing county of north Guangdong a few weeks ago to work on a study of inequality, I was struck by the severity of poverty in places only a few hours away from the most dynamic and prosperous Pearl River Delta. One family that we visited had almost no furniture. Another only lived on 90 yuan (US$13) per month from the social assistance program.