Written by Ugo Gentilini.

Is social protection good politics? In Poland, the proposal for a cash transfer scheme – the child benefit Family 500+ scheme – was core to the PiS (right-wing populist party) successful electoral campaign in 2015. By the following year, Family 500+ reached 2.7 million households and rose government cash support for families with children by up to 140%. But did the cash transfer alter political support for PiS over time? A paper by Gromadzki et al shows that a per capita cash transfer amount of $100 led to an increase of nearly 2 percentage points in the vote share for PiS in the parliamentary elections of 2019 (and BTW, the effects remained strong in the 2023 elections). But this made a political difference? “[W]ithout these transfers, the ruling party would not have been able to retain its parliamentary majority after 2019. Importantly, voters responded to the transfer only after the programme was introduced, as we find no effect of the campaign promise to introduce the transfer in the 2015 elections”.

Form politics to civil war: in Yemen, an article by Ecker et al assessed 2013 survey data and estimated that a 1 standard deviation increase in armed conflict intensity reduced children’s weight-for-height by 9.6% on average (see table 3). Yet, the national cash transfer program of the county’s Social Welfare Fund (SWF) almost halves such negative effects: while the program only represented about 4% of beneficiaries income, it was able to curb the conflict’s negative nutritional impact by at least 42.4%.

More on health with an amazing paper from India: Afridi et al examine the workings and effects of the country’s universal LPG subsidy system for cooking gas. The scheme operates on a refunding basis, that is, households pay the international market price over the counter, and later (in about a week on average) they receive a cash-back subsidy into their bank accounts. The refund is proportionate to the price paid, hence making the net out-of-pocket price of LPG effectively unchanged over time. However, when LPG prices increases by 1% low-income households (not middle or high income ones) decrease their cooking gas purchase by 1.4% and switching to solid fuels (expenditures on the latter rise by over 5%). In turn, solid fuels have deleterious effects on child health in terms of neonatal mortality, incidence of child cough, and rapid breathing. Bottom line: it boils down to availability of cash in hand when prices soar.

Bonus on India: Agarwal and Katewa evaluate the country’s conditional cash transfer for pregnant and lactating women, the Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY). The scheme provides about $50 per childbirth for up to two births per woman conditioned on various pre- and post-natal activities. According to the study, IGMSY beneficiaries were 2.8 and 2.2 percentage points less likely to be subject of physical and sexual violence by their partners, respectively.

And not that far away… a study by Bari et al sheds light on slum dynamics in Bangladesh and reveals that receipt of remittances increases waste disposal by about 28-32%, which in turn improves health (as measured by a decline in outpatient spending).

Buckle up for an East Asian tour! Considine et al have an insightful article on risks and opportunities in “digitizing welfare” in Australia. Specifically, they explore the implications of fully automating most of the country’s employment services instead of supplementing face-to-face case management. What is interesting is how the analysis balances where technology can be productively employed to enhance “efficiency” and “consistency” versus aspects of service delivery will require human judgement and agency (“inclusion” and “personalization”) – see for instance table 1 summarizing 16 trade-offs in “machine bureaucracies”.

More from the neighborhood: WFP released a brief on climate and disaster risk finance and insurance in the Asia Pacific region. This includes crisp insights from Bangladesh (where OCHA launched a CERF Anticipatory Action Framework for floods, p.5), the Philippines (where the Green Climate Fund is informing multi-hazard, impact-based forecasting and early warning systems, p.6), and Fiji, which “… stands out by actively incorporating social protection in its new CERF Anticipatory Action framework, making it a leader and showcasing its commitment to leveraging CDRFI to scale up social protection following climatic shocks” (p.7).

And that’s not all: P4SP has an overview of the evidence on social protection in the Pacific and Timor-Leste. Among the findings, I liked the discussion on evolution (see figure 3, p.19 for a timeline of interventions) as well as on the functions of social assistance (it can be a form of unemployment insurance, like in Kiribati, figure 6, p.24). Importantly, among the 25 countries covered in the review, several haven’t been studied much, i.e., American Samoa, French Polynesia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna.

Africa! A critical review by Osei et al sheds light on select administrative challenges of Ghana’s LEAP program, such as inadequate information; beneficiary transaction costs; challenges with payments; and fees to administrators. Regional bonus: A study by Oderinde et al on CCTs in Nigeria’s Osun state found that 79.2% of recipients “strongly agree” that the programme had “increased their access to maternity centres”.

Moving to LAC… Brazil is not just about Bolsa Familia: a paper by Marinho et al assesses the Cartão Mais Infância Ceará (CMIC) program, a monthly cash transfer of Rs100 (~$20) covering about 150,000 beneficiaries. The evaluation found that children participating in CMIC have an average 11.6% higher performance in Portuguese and mathematics exams compared to non-participants (see table 3.A, p.20).

News from the US: are people more generous in donating to charities? Based on 30 years of US consumer surveys and another 14 years of tax data, Smith found that giving money ($500 or more) remained steady, but donating time (volunteering) dropped since 2005.

A sobering paper from Türkiye: Ortakaya explored the views of 30 “inspection officers” on the effects of social assistance. Most officers (52.8%) responded “strongly agree” to the statement “social assistance steer beneficiaries to laziness (alienation from employment)” (p.31), and that “beneficiaries develop a dependency (…) which further promotes a culture of poverty” (p.35).

… and here are other two “hot” materials: a thought-provoking article by Caravani on international assistance in Uganda’s North-East argues that “at the core of failing aid in Karamoja lies a manufactured agrarian crisis that dates back to colonial times”. And speaking of colonialism, Olie et al state that international social protection agenda in sub-Saharan Africa presents continuities with the legacy of French colonial regimes.

Final round: happy birthday to the Journal of Social Policy now turning 50, with Eichhorn et al laying out reflections for future; a CBC video commentary/documentary on Kenya’s protests against the government’s finance bill; a big pensions reform was just announced in Saudi Arabia; and the BREAD Conference on Development Economics is heading to Singapore in December.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
        • Conditional cash transfers
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Fuel, water, and electricity subsidies
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
    • Laws and Policies
  • Programme implementation
    • Informations Systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Shock-responsive social protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Climate change
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Education
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Gender
    • Gender-based violence
  • Health
    • Child health
    • Maternal health
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's