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Exploring Issues, Evidence and Debates in a Globalizing World
Ugo Gentilini* and Steven Were Omamo Draft, February 2011
Abstract. This paper reviews the growing literature on social protection. While not new, the concept evolved remarkably in recent years. It is approached from a multitude of perspectives, and intersects with broader bodies of literature – particularly around public policy, pro-poor growth, rights, humanitarian strategies, and aid effectiveness – as well as feeding into specific programmatic issues (conditionality, targeting, transfer selection and delivery). This blend of challenges and approaches has made debates often elusive and polarized. The paper examines the evolution and definitions of social protection, and unbundles critical policy, institutional and implementation quandaries. Taken together, these considerations shape a set of context-specific models of social protection. The four core areas identified in the conclusions may help chart future directions for social protection research and practice. Keywords: Social protection, safety nets, risk, rights, public policy, insurance, transfers, foreign aid.
* Corresponding author. Comments are welcome and could be sent to Ugo.Gentilini@wfp.org. The authors are, respectively, Policy Officer at WFP‟s HQ and Director of WFP‟s Liaison Office at the African Union. The paper only reflects their personal views, not necessarily WFP‟s.
1. Introduction In its most basic meaning, social protection is not a new concept. In essence, it captures how members in societies support each other in times of distress, whereas societies are represented by members of tribal communities, state taxpayers or group of nations. Over the centuries – from the industrial revolution to the era of globalization – social protection has been a central tenet of countries‟ social contract as economies become more formalized, market-oriented and interconnected. More recently, the concept has been conceptualized from a wide range of perspectives, ranging from a macroeconomic stabilizer to needs-based emergency responses; from supporting households managing risks to rights-based approaches. The overall frameworks that emerge point to multiple objectives – spanning over assistance, insurance and social transformation – that intersect broader traditional debates around public policies, development strategies, and aid effectiveness. At the same time, discussion of social protection increasingly transcends national boundaries. While OECD countries are facing significant challenges in welfare reform (The Economist 2010a, 2010b), emerging economies are playing a growing role in shaping the global social protection agenda. While their systems are still developing1, countries like Brazil, China and South Africa are proactively experimenting, expanding and challenging policy models, hence bulging as new poles of innovation in social protection (Barnett and Chalk 2010; Devereux 2010; Ribe et al. 2010). Furthermore, in fragile states and contexts of protracted crises, social protection is also revitalizing longstanding debates on reconciling humanitarian and developmental approaches (FAO 2010; Maxwell et al. 2010; Barrett et al. 2008). Clearly, this blend of old and new dynamics not only redesigns trajectories in research, learning and experience-sharing2, but also elevates the level of complexities for policy-making. As world economies – and food systems within them – grow more interconnected and coexist with chronic food insecurity (Naylor and Falcon 2010; Reardon et al. 2009), Tanzi‟s (2000) call for „imagination‟ in repositioning social protection in a globalizing world remains ever-compelling. Taken together, these considerations suggest that the breadth and depth of issues that conflate in social protection makes it a complex, fluid and sometimes elusive matter. Therefore, this paper aims to unbundle and examine key factors that underpin current social protection debates. To this effect,
For example, according to the ILO (2010), the share of working-age population contributing to an old-age pension schemes in OECD countries averages nearly 70 percent. That indicator, which signals the degree of formality and integration of a social protection system, tends to be considerably lower in Brazil (45.2), China (22.6) and India (6.4). More generally, the report estimated that “… only one-third of countries globally (inhabited by 28 percent of the global population) have comprehensive social protection systems (…) [and that] only about 20 percent of the world‟s workingage population (and their families) have effective access to comprehensive social protection” (ILO 2010, p.1). 2 For example, emerging countries are not only supporting advancements in low-income contexts – e.g. see the AfricaBrazil Cooperation Program on Social Protection (Andrade 2008) – but also in OECD countries, as illustrated by a Mexico-inspired conditional cash transfer program launched in New York City (Riccio 2010). As a recent symposium report put it, „convergence‟ in global problems is encouraging „divergence‟ in solutions – that is “… homegrown recipes to alleviate and/or eradicate poverty prove exportable in sometimes surprising ways” (IDS and JRF 2010, p.2).
the next section reviews the evolution and definitions of social protection; policy, institutional and implementation issues are discussed in sections 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Section 6 illustrates a typology of context-specific models, while section 7 discusses key conclusions and future directions.
2. Unpacking social protection The exploration of social protection in scientific publications seems a relatively recent phenomenon. For instance, between 1800 and 1900 references to social protection in the development literature were almost inexistent3; the use of the term started to slightly raise from 1900 until 1980, at which point references boomed by a steep six-fold increase until 2000. The widely documented „adjustment with a human face‟ literature in the late 1980s and 1990s (World Bank 2000; Jolly 1991) was followed by a period, the early and mid-2000s, during which many of the modern social protection policy frameworks were formulated (DFID 2005; Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler 2004; Shepherd 2004; WFP 2004; ADB 2001; World Bank 2001). During that period, the literature flourished and often revisited the role of social protection under a holistic and forward-looking perspective, as opposed to its passive and narrow role played in the 1990s (Devereux 2003; Ravallion 2003; Farrington and Gill 2002; Holzmann and Jorgensen 2001). In was in this context of new demand for evidence and publication outlets that, for example, the World Bank‟s Social Protection Discussion Paper Series was lunched, the first wave of impact evaluations of Mexico‟s PROGRESAOportunidades program published, and academic journals devoted special issues to the topic (Holzmann 2009; Conway and Norton 2002; Hoddinott et al. 2000). By the mid-2000s, it was clear that social protection was influencing both the humanitarian and development space (Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler 2007; Longley et al. 2006; Devereux 2006, 2001). Flagship programs like Brazil‟s Bolsa Familia and Ethiopia‟s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), for example, were indeed launched in 2003 and 2005 respectively (Fiszbein and Schady 2009; GoE 2009). Over the next years, new research started exploring broader territories, such as the interactions between social protection and climate change, entrepreneurship and social justice (Davies et al. 2008; Barrett et al. 2007; Euzeby 2004). Dedicated regional policy research hubs blossomed, including for example the Centre for Social Protection in Europe, the Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme in Southern Africa, the International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth in Latin America, the Social Protection in Asia Programme, and the Washingtonbased Inter-American Social Protection Network4.
Estimates based on the Google Books Ngram Viewer tool, assembling a corpus of 5 million books spanning 1800-2000: http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/graph?content=social+protection&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=0&smoothin g=3. 4 See, respectively, http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/csp; http://www.wahenga.net/; http://www.ipc-undp.org/; http://www.socialprotectionasia.org/default.asp; and http://www.socialprotectionet.org/english/index.html.
It was in the wake of global high food prices in 2007-08, however, that social protection became more widely embedded into high-level agendas (EC and EUI 2010; OECD 2009; AU 2008; CAADP 2008). For example, world leaders called for “…social protection mechanisms such as safety nets and social policies for the most vulnerable” (G8 Summit 2009, p. 2), pledged significant funding “…for social protection for the poorest countries” (G20 Summit 2009, p. 8), and committed themselves to “…support improved social protection programmes in places at risk of malnutrition or food shortages” (DFID 2009, p. 35). While the causes and effects of the price-induced crisis remains matter of debate5, at its peak virtually all existing recommendations included, among the most urgent and cogent priorities, the introduction or expansion of social protection programs (Timmer 2010; UN 2009; HLC 2008; von Braun 2008; World Bank 2008). These measures were eventually implemented in various countries although, as documented in ex-post reviews, resulting in different levels of performance (Mousseau 2010; Zhang et al. 2010; Wodon and Zaman 2009). In the current era of food price volatility, recommendations around social protection are likely to stay relevant and rank on the top of international responses (Zoellick 2011; Fan 2010). Yet, while in principle there is consensus on the importance of social protection, its conceptual boundaries and practical definitions remain open to different interpretations. Indeed, there is a wide range of approaches on the rationale, scope, objectives and composition of social protection. Such diversity makes it challenging to develop shared definitions that are both conceptually comprehensive and technically relevant (Paitoonpong et al. 2008; Devereux and Sabates Wheeler 2007; Whiteford and Forster 2002). However, there a growing number of joint statements and policy frameworks that attempts to identify common ground, or at least some degree of convergence, among approaches (IDS et al. 2010; DFID et al. 2009; Sabates-Wheeler and Haddad 2005). For example, it is widely recognized that safety nets are a subset of broader social protection systems. The terms safety nets, social safety nets, social transfers or social assistance can be used interchangeably. They include non-contributory transfers in cash, vouchers or in-kind (mostly foodbased), which can be unconditional or conditional (such as conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and school feeding), or provided as wages in public or community works (food and cash-for-work6) (Gentilini and Omamo 2009; Grosh et al., 2008; Adato et al. 2004). Safety nets also include other
Following longstanding issues around the „food price dilemma‟, there is also debate whether high food prices really caused a crisis or could rather have benefited the poorest countries (e.g. see debate on Dani Rodrik and The Guardian‟s weblogs: http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2010/11/are-high-food-prices-good-or-bad-for-poverty.html; http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2011/jan/14/food-prices-agriculture-odi-burkina-fasoghana-indonesia-kenya-nicaragua). 6 There is a more subtle debate among practitioners around the trade-offs between the multiple objectives of public work programs. In some contexts like Ethiopia or India, for example, this tension has generated deeper discussions on “what constitutes a safety net” – that is, should public works be defined as safety nets when they play an entitlement function (i.e. public works designed with more emphasis on the provision of transfers/wages as opposed to the quality of assets built), or should they be incentive or asset-oriented (public works designed with more emphasis on the quality of assets as opposed to the provision of transfers/wages) (Omamo et al. 2010; Del Ninno et al. 2009; Murgai and Ravallion 2005).
interventions to improve access to food and basic essentials, such as consumer price subsidies (Alderman 2002). In addition to safety nets, social protection includes parts of labour market interventions (e.g. contributory pensions or minimum wages), a set of insurance products, and social services provided as part of sectoral policies for education, health and nutrition (Bundy et al. 2009; Devereux et al. 2008; Greenblot 2007). These components are mapped out in Figure 1. Figure 1. Components of social protection
Source: adapted from Gentilini and Omamo (2009)
Weather insurance products represent a common area between safety nets and insurance, especially when the latter is used to trigger early disaster response and advance financing (Alderman 2010; Hellmuth et al. 2009). Sectoral policies sometimes overlap with safety nets, as they combine the supply (social services) and demand-side (incentives, transfers) of interventions – e.g. school feeding and CCTs. However, the scope and range of labour markets and sectoral policies often go beyond social protection, including interventions such as microcredit, teacher trainings, constructing health clinics, and farmer subsidies (e.g. agricultural inputs). Overall, these three broad components of social protection – transfers, insurance and social services – are often underpinned by a fourth pillar, including rights and legislation, introduced to empower and enhance the status of the most disadvantaged and marginalized in societies (e.g. minimum working-days provided by law). Social protection components can take various forms. As a first-order distinction, it can be provided publicly or privately. Public measures can be funded domestically (through tax revenues, budget reallocation and commercial/market lending) or externally (by donors); private mechanisms can be provided informally (not supported by law or contractual agreements, e.g. community sharing arrangements), or formally through market transactions (e.g. insurance products). There could also be combinations of forms, for example when governments are involved in providing market insurance like in Mexico and Mongolia (Alderman and Haque 2007), when private sector is
contracted to deliver public social services such as in Nicaragua (Glassman et al. 2007), or in instances when informal support is delivered through formal systems (e.g. money-transfer companies for remittances). In section 6, we will further discuss how those compositions combine to shape different social protection models.
3. Policy debates As illustrated in the previous section, social protection is largely, although not entirely, about public policy. Since in a number of low-income countries public measures are largely externally-financed, decision-makers need to define the role of public action and, within it, the role of international aid. In other words, developing countries need to often face concerns around a „double-dependency‟ – general dependency on public-financed interventions, and specific concerns on aid dependency. As a recent OECD policy statement put it, “… [donor] actions in [social protection] must be harmonised and aligned with national policy, in line with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and Accra Agenda for Action” (OECD 2009, p. 15). This complex policy scenario has led discussion on social protection to intersect, on one hand, with the “what works agenda” – that is, social protection interventions are increasingly scrutinized through robust impact evaluations, particularly randomized controlled trials and quasi/nonexperimental methods. While these initiatives has ignited a lively debate on the appropriateness of individual evaluation methods (Deaton 2009; Ravallion 2009a; Duflo and Kramer 2008; Rodrik 2008), they underscored the importance of informing policy processes through credible evidence. Such agenda is, on the other hand, somehow independent from the source of financing of the very public interventions under scrutiny. Hence the relevance for social protection of the “aid effectiveness agenda” which has, also in this case, generated passionate discussion (Collier 2010; Clemens 2007; Easterly 2006; Sachs 2006). Concerns on dependency have also motivated simulations on affordability of basic social protection measures, and a more in-depth examination of the growth-effects of social protection interventions. These will be further explored hereafter. Analyses on costs of social protection packages generally conclude that, despite conventional wisdom, social protection is affordable even in low-income countries. Yet, there are some lingering issues around sustainability. It seems unclear, for example, how „affordability‟ should be interpreted. In some cases, the distinction on whether funds will come from domestic budgets or aid allocations is gloomy; in other cases, any cost that falls within countries‟ GDP capacity – whether GDP shares are single or double-digit – seems defined as „affordable‟. For example, in introducing the findings from cross-country simulations, Pal et al. (2005, p.xii) claimed that “… the conclusions therefore are quite clear. A basic social protection benefit package can be affordable if it is made a priority area of national policy”. However, the analysis shows that costs for social protection would be highly sensitive to assumed scenarios, and that for Ethiopia, for example, in 2015 those costs would range
from 9.2 to 44.6 percent of GDP7 (Pal et al. 2005). Therefore, future discussions on sustainability should further clarify the notion of affordability and more fully account for different modelling assumptions. From another perspective, table 1 lists a sample of 10 countries in Southern Africa according to their redistributive and domestic financing capacity. The former is measured by the marginal tax rate (MTR) on the rich needed to close the poverty gap at $ 2/day (Ravallion 2009b), while the latter is embodied by the net Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) as percentage of gross capital formation (GCF)8.
Table 1. Domestic redistribution and financing capacity, selected countries
Country Ethiopia Kenya Lesotho Malawi Mozambique South Africa Swaziland Tanzania Uganda Zambia Average MTR at $2/day 100 48.2 100 100 55.6 23.6 100 100 100 100 82.7
Net ODA as % of GCF 64.7 23.4 31.3 80.6 109.4 1.8 14.3 76.4 49.1 34.1 48.5
Source: World Bank WDI online database, latest available data ; Ravallion (2009b).
Among those countries, the average MTR exceeds 80 percent – ranging from 23.6 (South Africa) to 100 in seven of them; conversely, the share of aid in GFC constitutes almost half of countries‟ gross capital, ranging from 1.8 percent in South Africa to 109.4 percent in Mozambique10. Following Ravallion (2009b, p. 20), “… while the poorest countries appear to have weak capacity for attacking poverty through income redistribution – given the sheer weight of poverty and thinness of the rich strata in their starting distribution – with sufficient economic growth the tax rates on the rich required for covering the poverty gap start to fall rapidly. So it makes sense for the relative emphasis on growth versus redistribution, and the reliance on external aid, to change with the level of economic
Indeed, Pal et al (2005, p.x) also recognized that for contexts such as Ethiopia, “… the availability of donor financing would be essential if internationally set benefit levels are to be met”. 8 The MTR ranges from 0 to 100, whereas 100 entails that the entire wealth of the rich (or even more, as 100 has been truncated for simplicity) should be diverted for closing the poverty gap; GCF includes country‟s capital, including infrastructure such as schools, roads, railways, hospitals and land improvements. 9 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/DT.ODA.ODAT.GI.ZS (retrieved January 2011). 10 In countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil, aid as percentage of GCF is less than 1 percent; in South Africa and Egypt it is less than 5 percent. In countries like Liberia and Burundi, values reach a skyrocketing 742.1 percent and 286.3 percent respectively.
development”. While it is clear that, without growth, there might be limited scope for redistribution (and that role is de facto played by aid-financed programmes), in situations of post-conflict countries, for example, it is argued that social protection may reduce the likelihood of future conflicts (Shepherd 2004), and hence should be promoted before sectoral and macro policies (Collier and Hoeffler 2004). This may stem from the intrinsic value of signalling commitments to stability and reconciliation, which may render post-crises environments more conducive for investments and growth (Darcy 2004). These considerations speak directly to the dilemma around the sequence of interventions to help countries unlock poverty traps (Barrett et al. 2008) – or, in a stylized form, what measures countries would need to prioritize in contexts of binding budgetary and capacity constraints. In those settings, social protection has to compete with other interventions, hence generating possible tensions between equity and efficiency, or – as we‟ll further discuss in section 4 – between rights and available resources (Easterly 2009; Ravallion 2008, 2003; Whiteford 2006; Das et al. 2004; Moffitt 2002). As the recent Future of Food and Farming report puts it, “… it is important not to view social protection policies uncritically [since they] can compete with agriculture for political support” (Foresight 2011, p.26). While the sequence of interventions are seldom confronted explicitly, it is often implicitly discussed when devising ways to minimize potential trade-offs between equity and efficiency – in other words, the literature on the growth-social protection relationship (Alderman and Hoddinott 2009; Barrientos and Scott 2008). In this regard, evidence shows that social protection can potentially promote growth in four core ways. The first one revolves around the accumulation of human capital. This includes, for example, direct investments in nutrition. Evidence shows that better nutrition among children may – through the combined effects of better cognitive development, school attainments and labour productivity – lead to higher income streams as adults (Behrman et al. 2004). Conversely, the protection of human capital during times of distress helps maintaining future potential11. For example, in Ethiopia Yamano et al. (2005) founded that children in drought-affected communities receiving food transfers grew nearly 2 cm taller than those in non-receiving areas – an important factor, as stunting can be closely related to earning potential (Strauss and Thomas 1998). Indeed, in Guatemala it is estimated that nutrition interventions in early childhood led to higher wages in the order of 46 percent as adults compared to non-recipients (Hoddinott et al. 2008). Similarly, in Zimbabwe lifetime earnings of children affected by droughts in the 1980s was reduced by nearly 14 percent (Alderman et al. 2006). A second stream of „growth-friendly‟ social protection is related to the adoption of higher-risk, higher-income livelihood opportunities. Indeed, in some cases farmers may underperform because of
The „protection‟ function also includes preventing income poverty from further increasing, not only malnutrition. For example, in Kyrgyzstan it is estimated that the existing social protection system prevented extreme poverty to increase by 24 percent, poverty gaps by 42 percent and the severity of poverty by 57 percent (Shepherd 2004).
overly-conservative farming practices. Social protection could play an important role by guaranteeing a floor against which more rewarding models could be pursued. For example, in Tanzania, a shift into low-risk, low-return crops by poorer households resulted in 20 percent lower incomes per unit of land for households in the lowest quintile compared with the richest quintile (Alderman and Hoddinott 2009). Most of the recent innovations in insurance and risk-transfer products are designed to respond to those decision-making quandaries, essentially by exploring the interconnections between risk, predictability and entrepreneurship (Vargas Hill and Torero 2009; Barnett et al. 2008). A third channel relates to the alleviation of some market failures. Examples include the deployment of labour-intensive schemes to build infrastructures that connect markets, or that protect community assets in times of covariate shocks; the design of transfers or insurance to liquidity-constrained households whose needs may not be met by market forces alone (Dercon 2004); and finally, targeted programs that generate local economic multipliers, hence revitalizing ossified markets (Davies and Davey 2008). Finally, social protection feeds into the broader research exploring the interplay between inequality, poverty reduction and growth (or the „pro-poor growth‟ literature). There is new evidence suggesting that some trade-offs between inequality and growth may be less pronounced than often perceived12 (Ravallion 2009c). In some countries such as Brazil, for example, evidence shows that redistributive policies have played a key role in reducing poverty by complementing growth and market-oriented policies (Ravallion 2009d). In other contexts such as China, however, the role of redistribution in fostering growth seemed more limited (Dollar 2009; Ravallion 2009e). Taken together, these streams of research have helped changing the perception of social protection from being a mere cost to an investment in growth. Yet, there are important limitations and implications should be drawn cautiously. For example, evidence around the „predictability factor‟ is still limited13. The focus of safety nets on the demand or access dimension may lead to under-invest in the supply-side of interventions (e.g. education or social services), and vice-versa (Handa and Davis 2006). More broadly, if investments in education (also including safety nets such as school feeding and corresponding social services) are not matched by future job opportunities, there may be little incentives to keep investing in education (Pritchett 2001). Sustainable growth-effects of safety nets would likely require long time frames to fully realize (e.g. nutrition and education outcomes), and such time horizon may conflict with shorter-term priorities of vulnerable households (Barrett 2007). More fundamentally, when social protection is pursuing similar objectives as other
For example, Chaudhuri and Ravallion (2006) differentiate between „good‟ and „bad‟ inequalities for growth, with the former reflecting the role of economic incentives in fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, while the latter include inequalities that prevent individuals from connecting to markets and investing in physical and human capital – in other words, they reflect inequality in opportunities. 13 For example, it is unclear whether more predictability would encourage risk taking or rather foster moral hazard and unintended dependencies (Barrett 2006).
interventions (e.g. reduce vulnerability of small farmers), there is a need to more fully gauge sectoral opportunity costs (Foresight 2011). The design of interventions that create incentives for growth in the longer term and that meet, compatibly with those incentives, short-term needs will likely remain a crucial policy area in the coming years.
4. Institutional factors The burgeoning interest in social protection springs from various sources, or „entry-points‟, all of which entail some form of institutional reform and innovation. Social protection is emerging as a platform to breaking the cycle of recurrent emergencies, enhancing systems‟ effectiveness and efficiency, and building constituencies and promoting rights. These recent developments followed the narrower role that social protection played in 1990s. At that time, social protection initiatives were part of the „residualist‟ safety net agenda, primarily designed to mitigate adverse effects of structural adjustment and economic reforms. Examples include programs like Procampo in Mexico, Raskin in Indonesia, or Trabajar in Argentina (Hastuti 2008; Ravallion 2002; De Janvry et al. 2001). In terms of more modern perspectives, the first entry point – breaking the cycle of relief – is based on evidence that large shares of food insecure populations would need long-term assistance, regardless of the occurrence of covariate shocks. Some chronic needs are therefore „predictable‟, and a corresponding predictable level of support is required to address needs ex-ante, rather than with expost emergency assistance. Clearly, such a risk management approach offers intriguing opportunities for cross-fertilizing social protection and disaster risk reduction frameworks (Christoplos 2009; Davies and Leavy 2009). This has triggered the shift from annual relief programmes to multi-annual support in the PSNP in Ethiopia and the Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) in Kenya (GoE 2009; DFID 2007). Some donors have also set out quantitative targets to this approach. For example, DFID aims to “… to help build social protection systems to get help to 50 million people in over 20 countries over the next three years14” (DFID 2009, p. 25). However, preliminary quantitative studies have been cautious about their developmental impacts and institutional linkages (Gilligan et al. 2009), as well as their ability to respond to emergencies (Sabates-Wheeler and Devereux 2010; Save the Children, 2008). These gaps are often referred to as vertical and horizontal institutional linkages: the former concern the organizational chain and the decentralization of decision-making; the latter refer to the operational arrangements and partnerships for linking safety nets with other food security interventions – help beneficiaries to „graduate‟ – or emergency responses (Slater et al. 2006). In some contexts, relief responses are considered to be an institutional activity that is separate from social protection. The latter is set to include a series of long-term approaches to address chronic needs (e.g. transfers to the elderly), while emergency
In 2006, DFID‟s stated vision was to “… double to 16 million the number of people moved from emergency relief to long-term social protection programmes by 2009” (DFID 2006, p.60).
programs is bound to addresses short-term acute needs. Yet, in practice the expansion of social protection in emergencies could build upon existing temporary programs, while the latter could lay the basis for longer-term interventions. Future institutional innovations should explore how support broader sectoral developmental interventions and rapidly-scalable measures in emergencies (Alderman 2010; Alderman and Haque 2006). The second entry point for social protection is based on efforts to boost the effectiveness and efficiency of existing systems. Social protection programmes are being often provided by different ministries with different lines of responsibility and accountability, resulting in patchwork governance and management. This may generate duplication of efforts, gaps in coverage and poor institutional coordination. In other cases, programmes are implemented in isolation and lack a coherent policy framework. This second entry point therefore aims at „weaving the net‟ and harnessing its full potential. Activities for weaving the net include mapping, appraising, rationalizing, retargeting and costing programmes, and the overall streamlining and coordination of processes15. The review and appraisal of social protection systems have been undertaken both at the regional and country levels (PNA 2010; Ribe et al. 2010; GoC et al. 2009; UNICEF 2009; GoA 2008; GoM 2007; GoP 2007; World Bank 2007a,b, 2006; Devereux and Macauslan 2006). The third entry point leverages social protection for promoting social cohesion and rights-based agendas (UN 2010; Barrientos and Hulme 2008a; Holmes and Jones 2009; Devereux and SabatesWheeler 2004). The rights movements are often closely related to initiatives for advocating basic packages of social protection (Townsend 2009). An example is the intergovernmental conference on social protection held in Livingstone in 2006, with follow-up consultations in 2008. Sponsored by the African Union and civil society, the events called on African governments to galvanize political and economic commitment to social protection (AU 2008; AU and HAI 2008; GoZ and AU 2006). Rights campaigns raise the importance of social protection in national policy agendas, although the implications from rapidly institutionalizing social protection into national budgets and structures may deserve further attention. To some extent, limited social protection is seen largely as a lack of political will. For example, at a social protection workshop in Mozambique it was declared that “…we [members of Parliament of Angola and Mozambique] reiterate that, with the requisite political will, social transfers are affordable and that our governments should explore, prioritise and implement social transfers in their various forms” (SADC Parliamentary Forum and RHVP 2009, p. 2). In the words of Green (2008, p.208), “… instead of treating poor people as „beneficiaries‟, (…) social protection focuses on the rights and voices of poor people themselves, building an enduring constituency and demand for state action, and so promoting the combination of active citizens and effective states that is crucial to development.”
A related field of research is exploring options to enhance social protection within existing capacities, or without increasing the fiscal space (Holmqvist 2010; Baunsgaard and Symansky 2009).
While broader issues related to sustainability have been discussed in section three, the large share of aid and influence of external actors have led some authors to question the national ownership of the social protection agenda16 (Devereux and White 2010; Nigussa and Mberengwa 2009; Chinsinga 2007). Indeed, domestic contributions for highly popular unconditional cash transfer programs, such as those in Malawi and Zambia, only range from zero to 5 percent of program costs (McCord 2009). As an evaluation put it, the donor community should “… reconsider the contradictions between two of its primary objectives – namely its efforts to promote its own vision of social protection on the one hand, and its efforts to secure government ownership of social protection policies and strategies on the other” (Davies 2009, p.16). Therefore, the support, institutionalization and handover of social protection from donors to governments should be carefully designed. This requires approaches that put a premium on nimble engagement on policy process. Once a programme is institutionalized, it becomes more visible and formal. Eligible people can claim their rights to access to the programme, and governments must be accountable in meeting their obligations (Devereux et al. 2005). This is a critical step, although it becomes controversial when bold long-term social protection commitments are institutionalized in low-capacity contexts – the same that rely heavily on short-term or volatile external support, and have limited possibilities for domestic financing. Approaches need to more accountable and compatible with prevailing cultural, social and economic factors that shape countries‟ capacity at each stage of development. As recently observed by Haddad (2010a), “… country-led opportunities for strengthening social protection in Africa will not be commonplace. When they arise, the donors must be ready – not to produce their own solutions but to support the reformers working in the countries they are trying to help”. A bottom-up, demand-led, evidence-based, sequential and iterative approach to social protection is likely to be more politically and economically sustainable than any, although well-intended, ideologically-driven initiative.
5. Implementation quandaries As discussions descend from institutional to implementation matters, three main areas are often debated: the use of conditionality, targeting, and transfer selection. These implementation issues, especially the first two, tend to catalyse significant shares of debate around social protection. In some cases, they even overshadow deeper policy and institutional issues, with discussions being dominated by narrow considerations on how to deliver a given transfer for some groups of people.
This may also include a longstanding concern by communities over „top-down‟ approaches to social protection, and how systems can be influenced and strengthened from the „bottom-up‟ (Nigussa and Mberengwa 2009; Mgemezulu 2008; Morduch and Sharma 2002).
The debate around conditinalities unfolds at three levels – philosophical, technical and empirical. Experiences with CCTs in Latin America have emphasized the importance of an integrated approach to poverty, health, education and nutrition (Adato and Hoddinott 2010; Fiszbein and Shady 2009). A CCT program requires beneficiaries to perform some activities – e.g. ensure children attendance of school and medical visits – in exchange of a cash transfer. School feeding, including both on-site feeding and take-home rations programs, also represents a form of „conditional food transfer‟, as it requires school attendance to receive food (Bundy et al. 2009). According to some actors, conditionality represents an imposition on beneficiaries (Freeland 2007), and that they may even result disempowered (Molyneux 2009). Other actors suggest that conditional transfers do not force people to change behaviours, but rather promote co-responsibility between governments and citizens17 (Adato and Bassett 2008). In parallel to these philosophical divergences, studies have been appraising the feasibility of introducing and maintaining CCT programs, suggesting that the administrative and operational requirements are often a significant challenge in lower-capacity settings (Heinrich 2007; Soares and Britto 2007; Schubert and Slater 2006). A growing number of empirical studies are also investigating the comparative impacts of conditional and unconditional transfers – in other words, how much of the outcomes are attributable to the complementary services or the transfers per se. The evidence seems mixed, with experimental studies detecting a statistically significant difference in favour of CCTs (De Brauw and Hoddinott 2011), while others have found similar impacts between treatment arms (Baird et al. 2009). In general, discussions around CCTs embody many of the considerations laid out for trade-offs between equity and efficiency. Indeed, as underscored by Das et al. (2005), design choices around conditionality, the amount of transfers provided, and the refinement and enforcement of eligibility criteria would all play a role in addressing those trade-offs. The latter element – eligibility – is closely related to targeting, the next area of programming controversy. One of the most passionate areas of discussion around targeting is whether to target at all. Indeed, targeting is often closely linked to rights-related approaches (section 4), especially as they propose universal minimum incomes, or the right to basic social protection packages (Townsend 2009). From other standpoints, targeting is deemed instrumental for maximizing programme effectivenessefficiency ratios, and minimizing leakages. A number of targeting methods have been developed – e.g. means-testing, categorical, geographical, community-based, self-targeting – with comparative advantages and limitations in various contexts and programs. However, the distinction between vulnerability profiles, or between chronic and transitory poverty, becomes particularly blurred in contexts of persistent poverty – e.g. countries like Mozambique or Niger where more than 90 percent of the population lives on less than U$2/day (World Bank 2010). This is particularly compelling for
There are also approaches adopting „soft‟ conditionalities. These are based on initiatives to induce behavioural change, but which do not envision program exclusion as a penalty for non-compliance.
initiatives that envision predetermined rigid thresholds for program eligibility and enrolment – such as the „poorest 10 percent‟ – like the cash transfer programs in Malawi and Zambia (Schubert and Huijbregts 2006; Schubert 2005). While these schemes have grown in popularity, they have also stimulated severe criticism on their targeting methods (RHVP 2008). It is important to strike a balance between ensuring that benefits reach vulnerable populations, and avoiding artificial boundaries among and within almost equally vulnerable communities (Ellis 2008; Mgemezulu 2008). The third social protection implementation quandary revolves around transfer selection – hence particularly pertinent for safety nets – as exemplified by the „cash versus food‟ debate. While the discussion is longstanding (Coate 1989), Devereux (2006, p. 11) noted that “…the „cash versus food‟ debate has become unnecessarily polarised, even acrimonious. It is also spurious and misdirected”. However, the increase in practical implementation and empirical attention has shed light on the underlying conditions for guiding transfer selection processes. It is now widely recognized, for example, that the choice of the most appropriate transfer hinges on proper assessment of contextspecific factors. These include programme objectives, the functioning of markets, implementation capacities, delivery mechanisms, security conditions, cost-efficiency analysis, and beneficiaries‟ preferences (Gentilini 2007). The application, in particular, of cutting-edge technology for cash and voucher delivery (e.g. smart cards, mobile phones) is receiving considerable attention (Vincent and Cull 2011; Barca et al. 2010). Such options offer expanded scope for enhancing program design and forging public-private partnerships. Yet, while attractive and „smart‟, the choice of technology shouldn‟t substitute for response analysis and decision-making processes, out of which they only represent a specific component (Omamo et al. 2010; Barrett et al. 2009). Overall, while experience with cash-based programs in low-income countries is growing, a number of evidence gaps remain. This stems not only from the general features of the initiatives (small-scale, short-term and donor-financed) (Davies 2009; Save the Children 2009; Devereux and Coll-Black 2007), but also from the effectiveness in pursuing specific outcomes, such as child malnutrition, that are widely documented in higher-capacity contexts18 (Leroy et al. 2009; Fernald et al. 2008; Aguero et al. 2007). The appropriateness of cash-based responses in the immediate aftermath of emergencies remains matter of discussion19 (Sabates-Wheeler and Devereux 2010; Save the Children 2008; Harvey and Savage 2006), and so is the debate around what constitutes an „acceptable level‟ of evidence to inform the scale-up of programs (Miller 2009).
Evidence in low-capacity contexts tends to be qualitative and descriptive, with few experimental or quasi-experimental trials to explore for causal effects; Sharma (2006) is one of the few exceptions. However, also food-based interventions require more robust evaluations. Also in this case, Adelman et al. (2008) and Kazianga et al. (2009) are among the few experimental studies available. In general, there is a need for further robust cash and food comparative studies, such as the one by Ahmed et al. (2009), while more evidence on voucher and combined cash and food-based programs is also required. 19 In those contexts, practitioners have to navigate various trade-offs and competing demands between rigour and flexibility, timeliness and documentation, and scale and control (Gentilini et al. 2011).
6. Emerging models Taken together, the various components and forms of social protection, as well as the set of policy, institutional and implementation issues, delineate a number of possible models of social protection. As mentioned in section 1, not only various middle-income countries are emerging as beacons of R&D in social protection, but also a number of low-income countries are positioning themselves as proactive social protection players. Yet, the genuine process of experimenting, learning and adapting practices seems sometimes substituted by a process of replication of predefined approaches. While sharing lessons from different countries is key to innovate and advance knowledge and practice, it would be important to identify the extent to which lessons would be relevant elsewhere – the „portability‟ of social protection (Haddad 2010b) – and how to best suit them to contexts. Drawing from existing literature, tools20, data and case studies, it‟d be useful to set out a typology of social protection models, including „limited‟, „emerging‟ and „consolidated‟ social protection systems (Gentilini 2009; Gentilini and Omamo 2009; Ravallion 2009b; Barrientos and Hulme 2008b; Grosh et al. 2008; Shepherd 2004). While those models present differing array of objectives, administrative, financing and political factors, innovations are emerging across the board. Figure 2 illustrates those models as shaped by the level of integration and coordination, financing source, redistribution capacity, and the balance of safety nets (non-contributory) versus insurance (contributory) instruments.
Figure 2. An illustrative typology of social protection models
Integration & coordination (legislation, labor markets, ministries) Low “Programs” Aid High 100
Redistribution capacity (MTR)
Domestic 0 Low Ratio = Insurance/safety nets High
Tools to appraise countries‟ social protection capacities include, inter alia, the World Bank‟s Automated Analysis of the Distributional Impact of Social Protection Programmes (ADePT-SP), and ILO‟s Social Protection Expenditure and Performance Reviews (SPERs).
The boundaries of the clusters are often fluid, and the typology does not imply a predefined linear pathway for introducing or expanding social protection. Rather, it broadly illustrates different configurations based on prevailing conditions, while detailed exploration of the dynamics and causality of countries‟ pathways may be an area of further research. Our static model, instead, is particularly useful to frame debates and highlight contextual challenges. Countries with „consolidated‟ systems primarily include OECD and advanced economies, where social protection is institutionalized in national domestic budgets, structures, fiscal and expenditure regimes, and overall political processes. Social security, equity and welfare are among the key objectives that shape the social contract between the state and citizens (Dethier 2009; OECD 2008, 2007; De Neubourg et al. 2007; Lindert 2005; Alesina and Glaeser 2004). Systems are primarily insurance-based, linked to formal labour markets, delivered through electronic and digital solutions, and financed domestically. Yet, there are also non-contributory safety net programs. For instance, in the United States about 10 percent of the population benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). With a budget of about US$37.5 billion/year, SNAP is the largest voucher-based safety net in the world (USDA 2007). Countries with „emerging‟ systems are those where social protection has begun to be institutionalized. These include most of South-East Asian, Middle-East and Latin American countries. However, there are wide differences in such model. Some countries may lay at the intersection between emerging and limited systems (e.g. Ecuador, Nicaragua), while others may present features common in countries with consolidates systems (e.g. China, Turkey). In these contexts, international assistance has a limited role, and systems are largely domestically funded. Basic social protection is sometimes mandated by law, such as in India (SCCI 2008); safety nets are mainly cash-based or, like in most countries in the Middle-East, government-subsidized; formal contributory pensions are expanding, and both the public and private sectors offer market insurance products (Kabeer et al. 2010; WFP 2010, 2009; Alderman and Haque 2007; Gilligan and Ahmed 2007; Regalia and Castro 2007; Lindert et al. 2006). However, there is scope for significant improvements of these systems‟ coordination, coverage, effectiveness and efficiency (Ribe et al. 2010; Gao et al. 2009; Baulch et al. 2006; Giambiagi and de Mello 2006; Sumarto et al. 2003). Finally, countries with „limited‟ systems includes contexts with high needs (poverty, food insecurity and/or malnutrition rates) combined with limited fiscal space and redistribution capacity – e.g. countries with high MTR and aid shares presented in table 1. Under this model, two core sub-clusters can be identified. On one hand, there are post-conflict and fragile states, where most social protection is provided through donor-funded safety nets, often in the form of large humanitarian responses to recurrent emergencies. Examples include Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Haiti and Afghanistan (FAO 2010; Harvey 2009; Save the Children et al. 2009; GoA 2008, 2002). On the other hand, there are countries that are laying the basis for longer-term social protection systems. Examples include
Ethiopia (PSNP), Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya (HSNP), Cambodia and Bangladesh. While informal social protection still plays an important role, markets may allow a wider use of cash-based safety nets, and some insurance products might also appear (Maxwell et al. 2010; GoC 2009; UNICEF 2008; GoM 2007; World Bank 2006; WFP 2005; Morduch and Sharma 2002). However, domestic funding of social protection is very limited compared to external financing (Ellis et al. 2009; McCord 2009). Taken together, these considerations suggest that there are deep differences between an integrated „system‟ of social protection and a „collection of programs‟ (World Bank 2011; Kanbur 2009). While many developing countries have a number of individual social protection instruments in place, the low level of coordination, integration, financing and redistributive capacity may limit their ability to establish a system per se.
7. Conclusions and future directions The paper reviewed the growing literature on social protection. In particular, we navigated the different approached underpinning the concept, and identified some common elements to define the composition and forms of social protection. We explored the old and new streams of research that conflated into the debate, laid out key policy, institutional and implementation quandaries, and overlaid those factors to illustrate different models of social protection. Overall, four broad interconnected issues and challenges emerge from our analysis. Taken together, these considerations may help shape future directions for social protection research and practice. Context matters. All countries have social protection measures in place. However, the objectives, composition, forms, scale and funding modalities vary dramatically. This diversity has generated different typologies of social protection, which call for context-specific approaches as shaped by prevailing administrative, institutional and implementation issues. In particular, more attention should be paid to the challenges faced by crisis-prone, low-income and food insecure countries21. Cross-country lessons and support could help inform how to introduce or expand politically and financially-sustainable systems consistently with countries‟ prevailing conditions. This would include a comprehensive approach to social protection – that is, promoting a fuller consideration of the range of policy and institutional issues here discussed, rather than primarily focusing on implementation mechanics or rights alone. Systems, not programs. The process of moving from a collection of programs to an institutionalized system entails addressing key trade-offs along the policy, institutional and implementation spectrum. This includes navigating choices around short and longer-run interventions; productivity and equity;
As part of such process, there is a need to further investigate factors shaping countries‟ social protection pathways, as well as developing new ways to measure and quantify countries‟ capacity to provide social protection.
domestic and external support; or rights and affordability. Some of the trade-offs may be mitigated, while others may be more difficult to reconcile. Confronting these competing priorities requires a pragmatic approach to social protection, as opposed to ideology-driven debates that often ignore or oversimplify key trade-offs. To this effect, social protection platforms should not be developed in isolation, but rather be part of broader consultations to inform decision-making on investment priorities alongside other sectors. This would also help better nesting social protection within developmental initiatives, as well as strengthening the institutional linkages for scaling-up in emergencies. In order to be politically and financially sustainable – in order to build a system – the gradual establishment of social protection systems should be an integral part of countries‟ comprehensive development vision. Advance evidence-based agendas to inform decision-making. In general, more systematic and robust comparative social protection evaluations are needed, including a wider use of randomized controlled trials and other evaluation methods as appropriate22. These initiatives should be part of a coherent research framework23 to inform decision makers about performance (impacts and costs) of social protection interventions. This includes validating alternative safety net transfers, as well as comparing them to insurance and social services, and gauge opportunity costs from other productivity-enhancing interventions. The research agenda should be multidisciplinary, including drawing from economics, sociology and psychology; driven by program objectives or outcomes (e.g. looking for best interventions to improve well defined dimensions such as nutrition or education); articulated by context, and elaborating, for example, from the models here illustrated; testing how program design – e.g. conditionality, transfer modality, delivery mechanisms, distribution frequency – influence program outcomes; and capturing both short and longer-term effects (e.g. effects risktaking, impacts of food markets, or labour supply). The research agenda should be complemented by mechanisms to ensure accountable and transparent translation of credible body evidence into decision-making24. Repositioning social protection in a changing world. Globalization is not limited to high and middleincome countries, and social protection policies in all countries should recognize the world‟s growing interconnectedness. In low-income countries, this includes accounting more explicitly for the changing nature of food systems, growing urbanization, the exponential diffusion of technology, volatile food prices, rapid capital flows and more mobile labour markets. Those developments should
The combination of methods would ensure that issues around both internal and external validity are addressed. As noted by Hayek (1973, p.60), “… an experiment can tell us only whether any innovation does or does not fit into a given framework. But to hope that we can build a coherent order by random experimentation with particular solutions of individual problems and without following guiding principles is an illusion”. 24 For example, pilots could explore the application to social protection of new aid models such as „pay-for-performance‟ and „cash-on-delivery aid‟, both underpinned by principles of transparency, co-responsibility and feedback mechanisms (Basinga et al. 2010; Birsdall and Savedoff 2010).
alert and inspire governments on how to modernize social protection systems in an era of globalization. For example, the growing disconnect between international food prices and „real‟ food demand-supply dynamics (i.e. food prices being increasingly detached from agriculture and wrapped into commodity markets), there may be scope for governments to further consider virtual food reserves as part of the measures to provide countercyclical safety nets25. New initiatives that connect, harness and realigns incentives of civil society, private sector and public institutions may offer fresh perspectives and uncharted opportunities for repositioning social protection to meet 21st Centurychallenges.
The high volatility in food prices suggests that the time to setup responses to protect food insecure consumers/net importing countries is tight (and so is for farmers/net-food exporting countries to seize opportunities). So as food prices‟ upward acceleration increase, governments need quicker action planned ex-ante. In this regard, further studies may explore the feasibility for government to engage, in some way, in commodity markets themselves (e.g. buying shares in times of low prices) and in managing virtual food reserves throughout. The latter would become „real‟ or monetized in times of need (von Braun and Torero 2009). In other words, in addition to traditional safety net responses, governments may find it effective to tap virtual reserves to cushion price-generated crises.
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