Social Protection from Latin America and beyond

Dear readers,

Throughout this very first post, we are pleased to launch our series of publications on the blog! The reason for this very short presentation is to clarify who we are, how and why we have decided to work together writing on the blog, to explain the motives underpinning what we have developed and guiding our work, and last but not least explaining some basic concepts which might be needed for the comprehension of our future works, especially for those readers who are not so familiarized with the terminology used hereby.

So, here it goes...

Sidney Vasconcelos is a 23 year old, Brazilian undergraduate student of Political Science, at Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife – Brazil. Passionate about discovering new cultures, interacting with different people and places, sharing knowledge about the manners through which we could promote better life conditions for people all over the world became a strong commitment since his early years in college. As a Political Science student and a as a future change maker, he sees the opportunity to study and work with social protection related topics as a good strategy to fill the gaps we face nowadays in our modern societies. That is why he thinks the blog plays an important role by connecting people, sharing knowledge and providing people the opportunity to learn.

Mafer Navarrete is a 27 year old Mexican, newly graduated from an Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Sustainable Territorial Development. She strongly believes in the power of knowledge sharing, and overall the extreme necessity of cooperation for the achievement of shared goals. The last studies she carried out consisted of a 20 month journey which led her to understand the main importance of putting people first.

Since meeting in 2016 while working together as interns at the UNDP International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), in Brasilia – Brazil, as knowledge management interns for the platform, the work we developed together gave us evidences that the we can surely continue collaborating, since our academicand professional aspirations were aligned to the field of social policies and south-south cooperation as a means to promote sustainable development all over the world. In light of this, now, as ambassadors, having the opportunity to continue to work, we are more than happy to share with you our views, thoughts, ideas, experience and questions related to the social protection field.

While thinking about the strategy for the blog publications we have decided to approach social protection through different lenses, formats throughout correlated and contemporary themes. We will be sharing short articles and infographics approaching social protection policies in countries from the global south, current challenging issues of the world politics, perception stigmas about social programmes and new trends related to the policy making process. The idea here is to create a platform where readers can interact with us by sending (throughout the comments tab) us feedback, data, relevant information and questions in order for us to provide you all a more responsive tool for mutual learning. So, please feel free to help us creating an amazing experience for you and for us.

Understanding that all of you have an elementary knowledge about the concepts of social protection, and prior to the following blog publications, we would like to introduce you here to the taxonomy of social protection programmes that has been adopted by the since 2015. This taxonomy seems to be very important for all of us who are interested in social policies, and also because this is will be our guideline for the publications approaching policies and programmes in countries of the global south. We consider also to share at this moment the following information, since the terminology may be found alongside the upcoming posts, and it could set a common ground of understanding for terms and concept which could differ.

From the perspective of the’s taxonomy on social protection programmes, it is possible to identify 3 (three) categories for them: 1) Social Assistance, 2) Social Insurance and 3) Labour Market/Public Works/Productive Inclusion.

Social Assistance programmes encompass subcategories such as: 1.1) social transfers, 1.2) non-contributory health insurance, 1.3) subsidies and 1.4) social services. Social transfers, for instance, are divided into 2 (two) groups; the first one embraces cash transfers, while the second covers in-kind transfers. Both groups might also be classified as either conditional or unconditional regarding the activities or requirements that the beneficiaries shall undertake in order to earn the grant/good. As an example of a conditional cash transfer programme, BolsaFamília[1] from Brazil is fully considered. For an unconditional in-kind transfer programme, take the Public Distribution System (PDS)[2] that is being implemented in India as an example.

Non-contributory health insurance refers to free health insurance financed by contributions from the government and from the formal and informal sector employees. By subsidies, for instance, (2015) classifies public and private sectors’ interventions aiming at enhancing access for the poor or acting as safety nets. By providing housing subsidies to low and medium-income households in Brazil, Minha Casa Minha Vida[3] programme aims at stimulating growth and employment in the construction sector (ILO, 2011: 4). The last subcategory involves social services which are defined as social care services for children, elderly, women, disabled, immigrants etc. As an example of this subcategory, consider the South African Free Primary Public Health Care System[4].

Social insurance, the second category of social protection programmes, is referred to be a contributory programme in which regular financial contributions need to be made by those who wish to join schemes that are able to reduce risks in the event of a shock. Examples of social insurance are disability insurances, funeral grants, health insurances, maternity/paternity benefits, old-age pensions, and unemployment and work-related injury insurances. South Africa is currently in the process of implementation of a National Health Insurance (NHI)[5] programme which intends to bring significant changes in the provision of the health service in the national level.

The third category, the one that covers labour market related programmes, can also be divided into subcategories. There are 3 (three) of them: 3.1) labour market, 3.2) public works and 3.3) productive inclusion. By labour market programmes (2015) classifies interventions which can be either active or passive; or even both. For active interventions, take into account programmes that can include training and skills development, aside of employment counselling services. An example of an active labour market programme is PRONATEC[6], from Brazil. Passive interventions, for instance, englobe income support such as wage subsidies, unemployment benefits and changes to labour legislation (2015: 9). 

Public work programmes are referred to cash or food for work. These practices are illustrated by the distribution of cash or food in exchange for labour. The South African Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)[7] is an example of a governmental initiative aimed at creating job opportunities for people in need either in short or medium terms. Productive inclusion, the last subcategory, encompasses activities which envisage the creation of jobs and source of income to poor households either in rural or urban areas. Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (PAA)[8] which is currently being implemented in Brazil is an example of a productive inclusion programme whose aims are to providing access to agricultural inputs and to fostering purchase from smallholder farmers.

The above overview - and which can be observed on the scheme displayed as the image of the post- about the taxonomy of social protection programmes could enable any person to start understanding the vast universe of the social protection world. Most importantly, it can set the ground to go beyond the normal view of Social Protection, as merely “Cash Transfers”; and that was exactly our intention, since the next post will address how SP is more presented in our daily activities than we think.

We conclude this introductory article asking you all to send us your ideas and questions which may certainly be very helpful for us in order to create the publications for the next 5 months.

Thank you all for your time and interest in our blog series... and atémais! (:

Sidney Vasconcelos

Mafer Navarrete

This blog post is published as part of the Ambassador Series, which presents insights into social protection around the world from the viewpoint of our Ambassadors, a group of international online United Nations Volunteers who support the online knowledge exchange activities, networking and promotion of


[1], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[2], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[3], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[4], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[5], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[6], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[7], accessed on June 24, 2016.

[8], accessed on June 24, 2016.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • All programmes
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Social protection definition and features
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Poverty
  • Social inclusion
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's


Thanks for this Maria and well done on your first article. It is a very interesting and thought provoking piece. 

If you or your colleagues would like to learn more about social protection, specifically social transfers, the Economic Policy Research Institute runs annual social protection courses in Cape Town, South Africa and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The courses aim to build the capacity of government policymakers and officials, representatives from bilateral and multilateral agencies, programme practitioners, researchers, project managers and staff members from non-governmental organisations. The course will serve those who want to more effectively design, implement and manage social transfer programmes with the goal of reducing poverty and better achieving the Sustainable Developmental Goals. 

This year, our Cape Town course is taking place 7 - 18 August, and Chiang Mai 2 - 13 October.

Find out more here!