Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Inclusive social protection: policy implications

Availability, accessibility and adequacy are the prerequisites to leaving no one behind, as elaborated below.

Inclusion requires that social protection systems meet the needs of a diverse population at all stages of the life cycle. Contributory schemes rely on the payment of contributions, which may not be affordable to all. Inclusive social protection systems must therefore guarantee access to a minimum set of tax-financed alternatives. The right to social protection for all cannot be realized if it fails to reach those who need it most.

In recent years, many low-income countries have rapidly expanded access to social protection, mainly through tax-financed programmes. Some of these are grounded in solid legal frameworks. Others are implemented in the form of smallscale, often temporary, assistance that can help address short-term needs but leaves participants vulnerable to future shocks. Embedding social protection programmes in strong legal and institutional frameworks helps secure political and fiscal support.


All persons should be covered by social protection systems without discrimination.8 Universal programmes—available to all without conditions—are most likely to ensure inclusion and non-discrimination.

Even in a policy framework grounded in universalism, however, certain segments of the population face greater challenges than others in overcoming poverty and social exclusion. Special measures may be necessary, even temporarily, to help these groups. Promoting the inclusion of some groups, such as persons with disabilities, may require sustained special efforts. In other cases, the goal of special or targeted measures should be to bring everyone to the same starting line—leaving no one behind.

 Targeting is widely used to reach those individuals and groups most in need. Over the last several decades, universal programmes have at times been replaced by targeted schemes, which are perceived to allocate resources more efficiently. However, sound targeting typically requires advanced administrative capacities. Means testing, in particular, can involve methodologically complex surveys and high administrative costs. Targeting should therefore not be approached as a cost-saving measure. Moreover, inaccurate targeting can result in significant undercoverage—or “errors of exclusion”. In general, special or targeted measures must be approached as a complement to—rather than a substitute for—universal schemes.

Conditional cash transfers are aimed at encouraging human capital formation while promoting income security. However, their effectiveness depends on implementation. Some programmes use non-compliance with conditions simply to impose penalties on beneficiaries or exclude them from the programme. Punitive measures do little to promote the inclusion of those furthest behind.

Across all social protection schemes, lack of beneficiary involvement in design or delivery tends to limit effectiveness. Participation and consultation are important to ensure that barriers to access are identified and addressed. Several chapters in the report highlight examples of social protection schemes refined through consultation between Governments and potential beneficiaries. Beneficiary feedback, including robust grievance mechanisms, is also crucial to ensure that the rights of potential beneficiaries are respected. Making social protection programmes more inclusive requires transparent official avenues for people to challenge their exclusion or denounce discrimination and corruption. Supportive institutional environments are crucial in this regard.

Finally, accessible information and public communication campaigns tailored to the needs of potential beneficiaries are key to reaching those most in need.


Social protection transfers are often inadequate or insufficient in amount or duration to guarantee income security and health for all. Tax-financed schemes, in particular, tend to be lacking. If social protection systems are to make a meaningful impact on inclusion, many countries will need to increase investments in social protection and sustain such investments through economic cycles.

While fiscal space for social spending has increased in the last 10 years in most developing countries, more can be done to mobilize domestic resources and optimize public spending. About 100 countries out of 125 with data have gaps in their social protection floors that could be closed by spending less than 6 per cent of their GDP (Bierbaum and others, 2016, annex). However, 12 countries would need to spend over 10 per cent of GDP to close these gaps. These countries will need substantial help from the international community to set up social protection floors or expand social protection systems (Bierbaum and others, 2016, annex).

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