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social safety nets

The political economy of welfare schemes

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture
Medical checkups for children in India.Social welfare schemes the world over are going through interesting times. Egged on by fiscal management targets, welfare cuts are routinely passed off as “reforms”. Subsequently, there is usually pressure on governments to target welfare to the most deserving. Determining who the deserving beneficiaries are and the appropriate value of these transfers is critical.
In a recent edition of the Pathways’ Perspectives, social policy specialist Stephen Kidd bats for universal social security schemes. His central argument is built around the political economy of targeting, suggesting that “inclusive social security schemes build political alliances between those living in poverty, those on middle incomes and the affluent”. Governments that are interested in scaling up social security schemes prefer universal coverage. The argument goes that this way, they build a wide coalition of interests that support their scheme and hope that this support translates into electoral endorsement. On the other hand, governments that are interested in scaling back social security schemes do so by first withdrawing from universal schemes and then introduce an element of targeting. Soon, those that do not benefit from the scheme are more likely to see it as wasteful public spending and therefore, support a move to cut back.

Madagascar: Expanding the bandwidth of the extreme poor

Andrea Vermehren's picture
​Photo: Laura B. Rawlings / World Bank

It is 8 AM. The winter sun begins to appear over the gray-green mass of trees above the village of Tritriva in Madagascar’s central highlands. The courtyard of a stone church is already filled with women, many holding still-sleeping children in their arms. They have assembled for the first time in two months to receive a cash payment from the Malagasy state.

The women are poor and all live on less than $2 per day. The money they receive from the government amounts to about a third of their cash income for the two months in between each payment: it will go a long way in helping them support their families for the rest of the winter.
Initiated by the Madagascar government,  with support from the World Bank, the payments are part of a new program implemented by the Fonds d'Intervention pour le Développement (FID) to combat poverty in rural Madagascar and provide sustainable pathways to human development.

Thoughts on designing a national social safety net

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Social protection programs are essential to creating resilient communities that can withstand crises, but they are also difficult to implement. Improving preparedness is an important task going forward.

Portrait young woman in IndiaOver at the IDS blog, Stephen Devereux outlined ten steps to the design and implementation of a national social protection (SP) programme. It's a useful list for SP practitioners and local policymakers – a ten-point check-list; an useful starting point. I found interesting in particular, the point on ‘needs assessments’:

Needs assessment: A social protection system should not be an off-the-shelf blueprint, but must be grounded in local analysis of social protection needs, which can be derived from national poverty surveys and other secondary sources. Who are the poor and food insecure? What are the drivers of poverty and vulnerability? By comparing the needs assessment with the policy mapping, a gaps analysis can be conducted that will inform the development of the social protection strategy.

Determining who the deserving beneficiaries are, and the value (in cash and/or kind) of the transfers is critical. At the very least, this calls for a reasonably sophisticated statistical capacity in the countries designing these policies for themselves, which poses a significant challenge.

What do we know (and what not) about safety nets in urban areas?

Ugo Gentilini's picture
Cities are magnets of opportunity: they offer better standards of living than rural areas, and will soon house 75% of the global economy. But when demand for housing, jobs, and services outstrips capacity, urban areas can turn into congested, haphazard locales that amplify extreme poverty.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

State of Civil Society Report
CIVICUS alliance
The scale of the threats to civic space should not be underestimated. CIVICUS’ analysis suggests that, in 2014, there were serious threats to civic freedoms in at least 96 countries around the world. If you take these countries’ populations into account, this means that 67 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteed our freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, 6 out of 7 humans live in countries where these freedoms were under threat. And even the most mature democracies are not exempt

6 Astounding Ways Africa Is Paving the Way for the Future of Technology
Open Mic
Every week, the American tech sector uses the most advanced mobile technologies in the world to create some new meaningless distraction. Tinder for dogs, Airbnb for boats, Yo — all sorts of luxury convenience tools created to manufacture and solve problems that don't exist and extract some in-app purchases along the way. Meanwhile, in Africa, a budding generation of technologists, coders and entrepreneurs are rising to solve their continent's most pressing problems. Entire new industries around payment solutions, crowdsourcing and entertainment media are springing up in tech hubs in Kenya, Nigeria and other countries.  This is the rise of Silicon Savannah — and a few ways it's going to change the global face of technology.

In Ethiopia, a safety net program helps improve gender roles

Maniza Naqvi's picture

Abebech, a single mother of three, in Arsi Negelle district in Ethiopia heads out for another shift at the construction site for gully embankments, part of a public works program offered by the Government of Ethiopia to address food insecurity.
Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) reaches an estimated 9 million people across the regions of Amhara, Oromiya, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region, Tigray, Afar, Somali, Dire Dawa, and Harar.  Food or cash payments are provided to very poor households. Payments are made in return for community work known as ‘public works’ – with participants working on soil and water conservation, construction of schools, health posts, childcare centers and road building. The work is scheduled usually after harvest season to ensure food security and enough money to carry through seasonal food shortages.
Poor households in Ethiopia face a series of economic, social and environmental risks and vulnerabilities with risks often higher for women. While women help with farming and related work, they also receive unequal access to resources, financing, training, and are also more vulnerable to household-related shocks -- illness, death of household member, drought, flood, price shocks, job loss, loss or death of livestock.  Women in rural areas typically received poor education and are paid lower for the same type of work as their male counterparts.

How to narrow the gap between the rich and poor in Malaysia?

Frederico Gil Sander's picture

If you could make one New Year’s wish for your country, what would it be?

For many Malaysians, Prime Minister Najib Razak’s wish for “a safer, more prosperous, and more equal society” likely resonated with their hopes for 2015.

Malaysians appear to be increasingly concerned about income inequality. According to a 2014 Pew Global survey, 77% of Malaysians think that the gap between the rich and poor is a big problem. The government has acknowledged that inequality remains high, and that tackling these disparities will be Malaysia’s “biggest challenge” in becoming a high-income nation.

How can Malaysia narrow the gap between the rich and poor? Global experience suggests two possible levers to achieve a more equitable income distribution.

Lessons from Reducing Energy Subsidies

Mamta Murthi's picture

A view from Central Europe and the Baltics

Energy subsidies are common throughout the world.  The bulk of subsidies are paid in the Middle East and North Africa where my colleague, Shanta Devarajan, has eloquently blogged about their corrosive impact on economic growth, on employment, on human health and on water conservation.  Where I sit, in Central Europe, many countries are in the process of liberalizing their market for energy and bringing subsidies to an end.  What lessons does the experience of energy price liberation in this group of countries offer to their neighbors in the south?  Based on the work of my colleagues, Nistha Sinha and Caterina Ruggieri, I would draw five lessons.

A Safety Net for Stella

Kavita Watsa's picture
Bold Steps to Reduce Extreme Poverty in Tanzania
The government is supporting Tanzania's poorest families in an effort to reach those left behind by the country's largely urban growth.

Mtoto mzuri sana. Stella’s face lights up as I admire her baby, but she doesn’t reply. We are in the primary school compound in Chehembe, a village about 50 kilometers from Tanzania’s administrative capital, Dodoma. Stella is waiting to be registered in the country’s social safety net program, which is meant to cushion very poor households against sudden losses of income. And we are waiting to hear Stella’s story, to ask her how many children she has, and how she earns a living.

Old and vulnerable: The status of Tanzania’s elders

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen  wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Growing old is almost a universal dream. Over the past two centuries, life expectancy in Western Europe increased from 32 (in 1800) to over 80 years in 2011. This unprecedented leap in human history came as the combination of technological advances in medicine, improved living conditions, and better nutrition, among other factors. However, old age is also often accompanied with a general deterioration in physical capacities, proneness to disease and sickness, and the inability to engage in economic activity. This heightens the risk of poverty and insecurity thereby requiring societies to find mechanisms to support their elderly population.