On May 28, 2024, the socialprotection.org platform hosted the webinar Closing the Gender Data Gap in Social Protection, organized by the Social Protection Technical Assistance, Advice, and Resources Facility (STAAR) on behalf of the Social Protection Inter-Agency Cooperation Board (SPIAC-B) Gender Group. Moderated by Rachel Mason (Gender and Social Protection Lead, United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)) the webinar presented key messages of the STAAR report Mapping Gender and Social Protection Data. Next, the second part of the webinar was a panel discussion focused on the question of how international agencies are collecting and using sex-disaggregated data. Also, there was a brief discussion about Malawi´s experience.


The full webinar recording is available here and the slide presentation here.




Tia Palermo & Maja Gavrilovic, Policy Research Solutions (PRESTO)

Palermo opened the presentation highlighting that there is a growing recognition of gender-responsive SP’s role in addressing the drivers of women and girls’ vulnerability to poverty, so they can overcome structural inequalities. Following, the first step for leveraging SP contribution to sustainable poverty reduction among women is better understanding, through data, what are the gaps in coverage and adequacy, as well as obtaining better data to assess impacts of SP programmes and policies. Similarly, for conducting gender-sensitive SP analysis, it is first needed to collect and analyse data in a sex-disaggregated manner. Departing from this background, Figure 1 lists the report´s objectives.


Figure 1: Mapping Gender and Social Protection Data report's objectives

Source: Closing the Gender Gap in Social Protection webinar presentation


Next, Palermo presented the work of three different international organizations in terms of sex-disaggregated data on SP.

International Labour Organization, ILO

  • It collects data from administrative sources, supplemented by labour force surveys, to report on SDG 1.3, related to SP.
  • It conducts the Social Security Inquiry survey every three years, collecting data on statutory SP programmes (anchored in law). It includes sex-disaggregated indicators on contributors, beneficiaries, payment of benefits, eligibility criteria and design features, migrant status, and poverty information. Results are summarized in the World Social Protection reports.

United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF

  • It conducts the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), a household survey which includes a SP module since 2017. Since 2023 SP data is collected in a manner that enables individual level identification and sex-disaggregation indicators.

World Bank, WB

  • It conducts the Atlas of Social Protection Indicators of Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE), which tracks the global trends and performance of SP across 141 countries, including data from household surveys and programme-level administrative data. As of August 2023, 453 household surveys had been harmonized across 126 countries
  • It is currently developing a new tool within ASPIRE to process sex-disaggregated SP data, including 20 different indicators disaggregated by sex.


Gavrilovic continued the presentation highlighting challenges and gaps for collecting sex-disaggregated data and conducting gender analysis. Challenges are related to:

  • How social SP data is collected, processes and stored – e.g. capacity and resources constraints, lack of awareness about the importance of sex-disaggregated data, different levels of commitment at the national level.
  • Conceptual and methodological limitations hampering sex-disaggregation – e.g. design of surveys at the household level (irrespective of whether programmes are targeted at the individual level and ignoring intrahousehold dynamics)
  • Types of SP programmes – e.g. social insurance (contributory) schemes tend to be delivered at the individual level and to be more regulated.  Therefore, they are easier to track when compared to social assistance that, in many countries, tend to be fragmented and implemented across different agencies.
  • Policy & resources constraints – e.g. donors tend to prefer allocating funds to other priorities, such as coverage expansion (though data is necessary to assess who is receiving which benefit(s) so expansion is equitable and efficient).
  • Harmonization – e.g. no agreed definition on SP taxonomy across agencies and countries (hindering practical coordination and leading to duplication of efforts), lack of coordinated systematized efforts at country level (it may be easier and faster to collect data and report independently), fragmented SP national system and absence of unified registers, confidentiality agreements blocking data sharing.
  • Lack of capacity building – e.g. though capacity building efforts are ongoing or planned, staff from multiple organizations reported they received no formal training.

Notwithstanding, Palermo and Gavrilovic identified several entry points for leveraging harmonization and coordination at the national and at the multilateral levels, or to at least kick-off the dialogue around how coordination can be strengthened.  For instance, the United Nations wide inter-agency working group on household surveys could be tapped to standardize taxonomy, and to function as an advocacy platform for redesigning survey questions towards the individual level. In this sense, MICS7 and MICS+ are methodological opportunities to create a comprehensive SP gender analysis (see other entry points in Figure 2).


Figure 2: Opportunities for more harmonization & coordination

Source: Closing the Gender Gap in Social Protection webinar presentation


On a positive note, Gavrilovic stressed the growing demand and efforts to expand sex-disaggregated systems for informed decision-making. She concluded observing that cross-agency coordination remains siloed and calling for greater financial investment. See Figure outlines 5 key concluding points.


Figure 3: Conclusions

Source: Closing the Gender Gap in Social Protection webinar presentation




Lauren Pandolfelli, Gender Statistics Specialist, UNICEF

Pandolfelli discussed how the new questions on SP introduced in the MICS survey enables gender-sensitive analysis. In 2023 UNICEF included new questions asking about ST received at the individual level. In other words, instead of only asking “Does anyone in your household receive a transfer?” the survey now follows-up  questioning “Who in the household is the transfer intended for?” and “Who in the household is authorized to receive the transfer?”. This information allows:

  • Understanding whether STs are reaching women and girls, to what extent women are authorized to receive the benefits, and how transfers are distributed within the household.
  • Conducting intersectional analysis to understand which women and which girls receive STs by characteristics as ethnicity, marital status, educational status, household wealth, urban or rural location, etc.
  • Unpacking the relationship between access to STs and other outcomes in women and girls' well-being, such as living in multidimensional poverty, child protection, health and nutrition outcomes.


Valeria Nesterenko, Data Specialist, ILO

Nesterenko approached the elaboration of the ILO Guide on Building National Systems of Social Protection Statistics. Its objective is providing a practical tool to assist the development and strengthening of national systems of SP statistics. More specifically, the Guide explains how to:

  • Build national working groups on SP statistics.
  • Better communicate the data nationally.
  • Identify the country´s needs and select the most relevant SP indicators, disaggregating data not only by gender, but also by migration and disability status, age, etc.

In 2023 the Guide was piloted in Egypt and Eswatini and its launch is scheduled to happen in October 2024. The expectation is that it will be a living document, looking forward to adding more country experiences along the next years. In addition, ILO has introduced a course on SP Statistics within the Academy on Social Security, held in September every year, in Turin, Italy.


Claudia Rodriguez Alas, Social Protection Specialist, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, WB

Alas discussed WB’s efforts, within ASPIRE, to collect SP sex-disaggregated data. From 2021, WB considers three units of analysis when analysing country surveys: direct SP beneficiaries, indirect SP beneficiaries and SP recipients. On one hand, this allows looking at indicators of coverage, incidence of beneficiaries and average per capita transfer. On the other hand, this exercise does not allow assessing who in the household has access to the transfers since household surveys do not identify the assistant units of the programmes.

Therefore, WB turned to administrative sources to enable the collection of sex-disaggregated data on direct beneficiaries. Regarding benefit recipients, when surveys captured data at the individual level, WB is able to generate sex-disaggregated data on coverage incidence, average per capita transfer and overall social spending. In addition, WB assesses SP’s degree of mitigation of gendered differences on labour market earnings across 27 countries.


Gilbert Kaponda, Principal Social Welfare Officer under the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) Programme, Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi

Kaponda approached the relevance of gender-disaggregated SP data in the Malawian context. Regarding the country’s flagship programme, the Social Cash Transfer (SCT), data largely originates from the Unified Beneficiary Registry, which is particularly generated at beneficiaries’ enrolment stage. Next, this data is injected in the SCT´s management information system, allowing gender-disaggregated analysis.

Currently (2024) there are over 293,000 SCT´s beneficiary households, and over 1,000,283 household members. The female category corresponds to over 70% of the households , while in terms of membership, 56% are female. According to Kaponda, this shows the need to rethink SP interventions in Malawi towards women. Plus, sex-disaggregated data also pointed out to the vulnerability of women and girls. As a response, several gendered focused initiatives emerged – e.g. the SP for Gender and Resilience programme, and economic-empowerment and skills-development schemes.

Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Governance and coordination
    • Situation analysis / needs assessment
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Gender-sensitive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Gender
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's