Social protection schemes are considered a successful instrument to reduce poverty in most countries. In the Philippines, the importance of a social protection system to build resilience among Filipinos is emphasised in the 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP). Since 2011, the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has focused on providing opportunities for income generating activities and livelihood development through the implementation of the Sustainable Livelihood Programme (SLP). 

The SLP is linked to the country’s conditional cash transfer scheme, known locally as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Programme, or 4Ps. The 4Ps has one of the most comprehensive poverty targeting databases in the world and benefits about 20% of the population, catering to the majority of the nation’s poor. The Pantawid Pamilyang is therefore central to the Philippine government’s poverty reduction and social protection strategy. 

The Sustainable Livelihood Programme

1. Basic overview

i. Objectives

The SLP is a capability-building programme for poor, vulnerable, and marginalised families and individuals focused on generating employment among poor households and moving highly vulnerable households into sustainable livelihoods and economic stability. 

By creating synergies between transfers and productive inclusion interventions, the long-term goal of the SLP is to achieve socio-economic well-being of participants through their engagement in self- and wage employment.

ii. Targets

The target participants are poor households, primarily the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang, which accounts for about 80% of the participants. Other beneficiaries are poor families identified by the Listahanan national household targeting registry. 

iii. Coverage and budget

The programme is implemented nationally, existing in all provinces where the 4Ps cash transfer programme is operational. It has supported 1.3 million households since it was initiated. It is considered one of the most successful programmes in Asia.

As part of the overall Social Protection budget, allocations for the SLP increased from U$ 1.7 million in 2011, to U$ 182 million in 2017. Correspondingly, the number of families served by the SLP increased from 46,000 families in 2011 to 166,000 in 2017. 

iv. Impact

By linking social protection with sustainable employment opportunities, it created employment for over 1 million beneficiaries of the 4Ps cash transfer scheme from 2011 to 2015.

2. SLP tracks 

The programme provides two tracks of support:

i. Employment Facilitation (EF): Connects participants to employment opportunities and appropriate training through public-private partnerships. Eligibility is 18 years of age or more. Individuals receive allocated funding for skills training. Participants are trained at private technical vocational institutions or through the governments’ Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). 

ii. Micro-enterprise Development (MD): Gives support to microenterprises to become organisationally and economically sustainable. Participants have access to funds and training to set up their own microenterprise. Eligibility is 16 years of age or more. 

Households receive support for up to two years after receiving inputs, with Project Development Officer (PDOs) providing technical assistance where needed. During this period, the productive projects are assisted to become self-reliant and they can seek support from other programmes and services.

3. SLP modalities


4. Performance and opportunities

The World Bank Policy Note, The Philippines Sustainable Livelihood Program: Providing and expanding access to employment and livelihood opportunities (2018) explores the design and core processes of the SLP and reflects on opportunities for improvement to maximise its impact. The following key findings are highlighted in the publication and relate to the performance of each track and opportunities for improvement:



5. Recommendations

A way forward for the SLP is proposed based on previous evaluations, international experiences, and the review of the current field operations manual. The key recommendations highlighted in the World Bank Policy Note are divided into two groups: Business process recommendations and Programme design recommendations:

i. Business processes:

  • Increase commitment of participants by providing more focused counselling and information, setting expectations for participants during the social preparation stage to reduce drop-outs. 
  • The programme relies heavily on PDOs, therefore it is important to strengthen their capacity, provide adequate support, and revise PDO performance indicators, which put pressure on their performance and wrongly incentivise them to increase beneficiary enrolment, compromising programme quality. 
  • The program needs to expand venues for programme outreach, giving more flexibility to PDOs to deliver their message. 
  • The programme needs to enhance current and develop new monitoring tools to assess the cost-effectiveness and impact of each track, keep and scale up modalities that perform well, and redesign modalities that perform poorly. 

ii. Programme design:

  • Set realistic expectations and refine programme goals: To overcome the challenge of creating and/or finding employment for a large group of uneducated people, the programme should focus on providing skills and linking beneficiaries to other programmes.  
  • Select SLP participants through an objective procedure: Eligibility criteria should rely on an objective tool to classify participants into tracks and modalities that fit their characteristics best, instead of leaving the decision solely to the participant. Accordingly, PDOs must be advised not to encourage participants to go into one track over another. 
  • Involve local experts in implementing modalities of the MD track to increase the likelihood of success for microenterprises: Similar programmes implemented in other countries emphasise regular coaching or transfer of knowledge to guide projects. 
  • Study further the added value of SLPAs: The process to form, constitute, and formalise a SLPA adds to the costs of beneficiaries and may have a negative impact in opportunities for some participants. Moreover, evaluation findings demonstrate that SLAPs may not be working as expected, since programme beneficiaries tend to prefer to set up their individual enterprises even though they belong to the SLPAs. 
  • Review the sustainability of the Seed Capital Fund under the MD track: As mentioned before, repayment rates under the MD track are low in comparison with other microfinance modalities in the country. Given these findings, it is worth looking into the current repayment performance of beneficiaries to assess the financial sustainability of the modality as it is currently designed.
  • Strengthen referral linkages to other programmes: The SLP should look into developing effective collaborations with other national and local agencies with capacity to provide further guidance and resources for their entrepreneurial projects and job search. 
  • Integrate the SLP with other livelihood and active labour market programmes in the country: There are several livelihood programmes across national agencies, among which the SLP is the larger one. Fragmentation means that each programme has its own systems and different databases, which creates considerable inefficiency both from the perspective of the implementers and beneficiaries. 
  • Improve integration of livelihood/graduation programmes with social assistance programmes: Safety net programmes can complement and enhance a livelihood programme. The guarantee of reliable support can also have a psychosocial impact, inspiring confidence and promoting a beneficiary’s ability to plan with a degree of certainty.


Please find the World Bank Policy Note in full here. For the recording of a webinar held on this topic, please see here. For more information about linking social protection to sustainable employment, check out this SPEC publication

Are you interested in the topic of linking social protection to employment more widely? Join the online community: Social Protection for Employment Community (SPEC).


This blog post is published as part of the Social Protection for Employment Series in partnership with SPEC (Social Protection for Employment - Community). SPEC, established by Australian DFAT and German GIZ, promotes South-South learning in social protection for employment. This series presents contributions focused on social protection and sustainable employment”. 



Acosta, P. A. and Avalos, J. (2018). The Philippines Sustainable Livelihood Program: Providing and expanding access to employment and livelihood opportunities, World Bank Policy Note n.13. Accessible: 

McCord, A. (2018). Liking Social Protection to Sustainable Employment, Current Practices and Future Directions, SPEC. Accessible: 

National Economic and Development Authority/NEDA (2017). Philippines Development Plan 2017-2022, National Economic and Development Authority. Accessible: 

Pornares, A. (2017). Presentation on Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), Social Protection Hub Jakarta. Accessible:

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
        • Conditional cash transfers
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes/Productive inclusion
      • Productive/economic inclusion programmes
      • Job training
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Monitoring and evaluation systems
  • Programme design
    • Targeting
  • Programme implementation
    • Information systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Labour market / employment
    • Unemployment
  • Resilience
  • Philippines
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not's


Great one!

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