What’s the latest on country responses to the pandemic? Our global Covid-19 social protection and labor tracker v.16 is just out! The tracker recorded 523 new measures since the last update: in 900+ pages, the report examines 3,856 measures in 223 economies through the lens of 90 indicators, including updated analysis on global, regional and country coverage, spending, duration, extensions, payment modalities, timeliness – with sections on social assistance, insurance and supply-side labor markets. And 8 rich annexes provide disaggregated information as well as qualitative reviews of programs and country experiences over 2020-2022. An accompanying Excel file will be posted online shortly. Enjoy the “living paper”, and feedback welcome!
On one of the most Shakespearian dilemmas in cash transfers… to condition or not to condition? A new quantitative paper by Bryan et al argues that the choice between CCTs and UCTs depends on “… income effects, effects of adherence to the condition that corrects the targeted market failure, distortions created by the imposed condition, distributional effects, and spillover effects”. There is also an experimental component to the paper: the authors vary the size of cash transfers designed to encourage seasonal migration in Indonesia and found that when the CCT transfer exceeds the transportation cost required to migrate, “… distortionary effects creep in, lowering the benefits generated by the program”.
Moving to another CCT, but in Brazil! Pontes Lucas et al show that the earlier in life children receive Bolsa conditional cash transfers, the better is their birth weight and the lower is congenital malformation of the newborn.
… and of course, let’s examine a flagship UCT: a study by Luthuli et al on the Child Support Grant in South Africa sheds light on how implementation procedures can affect outcomes. They found that the complex application process for women informal workers required mothers to undertake costly and time-consuming travels to state offices to complete enrollment. This led to delays in obtaining CSG transfers, and many women experienced food insecurity before and after the baby was born. As a result, some mothers had to return to work earlier than planned, disrupting childcare and breastfeeding.
Let’s take a look at results from another UCT in the neighborhood: in Lesotho, Mostafavi-Dehzooei and Heshmatpour estimate that recipients of the national Child Grant Program are 7% more likely to use agricultural inputs. Also, cash transfers increase patience of beneficiaries!
Veering the focus to MENA, “the Bismarkian-inspired model systematically excludes important segments of the population from protection”, argues Scala’s paper on Lebanon. His analysis of the severe challenges faced by the Lebanese social protection system points to recommending a unified universal approach “with contributory schemes that ensure entitlements for all, as well as targeted social assistance”.
Now to LAC! What do we know about the effects of cash transfers on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) outcomes? A paper by Roelen and Rodriguez offers a handy global overview complemented by a case study on Haiti’s Chemen Lavi Miyò (CLM) programme. (The CLM offers a package of weekly cash transfers ($4) for 6 months, livestock transfers, village savings, case management workers visits, inkind support for materials and food, and behavioral change trainings). Core finding: the CLM “… increases access to improved toilet facilities, in large part because materials to build latrines are provided through the programme”.
Speaking of multilayered cash transfers, CaLP’s Cash Working Group in Iraq has a report of a 2-day workshop on strategic and operational opportunities for connecting Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance an social protection (see p.14-17). Yet it is noted that “… [r]eferring MPCA beneficiaries to Social Protection will be challenging until the limitations to [the] registration mechanism are lifted”.
Since I mentioned Iraq… the country is one of the six case studies of the strategic evaluation of WFP’s use of technology (alongside Bangladesh, South Sudan, Jordan, DRC and Niger). Structured in two volumes (vol 1 and vol 2), the evaluation found that the use of digital technologies “… increased the effectiveness of its operations through improved targeting, tailoring and delivery of assistance to better meet beneficiaries’ needs”; and it enhanced “… the efficiency of operations through savings (…), simplified and less error-prone distribution of assistance enabled by digital registration, improved supply chain management and reductions in monitoring costs, among other things”. Yet the evaluation also warns that “… [t]he use of digital technology (…) is often mistakenly seen as inclusive or neutral”.
Let me conclude by highlighting an interesting paper at the intersection of social protection and humanitarian assistance: Caravani et al call for a new approach “embracing uncertainty” in crisis and conflict-affected settings (h/t Matteo Caravani).
Ugo Gentilini is from the World Bank’s Social Protection & Jobs global practice. The Social Protection Links newsletter, issued every Friday, distills and discusses a selection of curated resources on the topic, from academic articles to podcasts. The blog is republished on socialprotection.org each week, offering knowledge on social protection to help you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.