Let’s begin with a refresher on the effects of cash transfers on child nutrition! Manley et al updated a database of impact evaluations now including 129 estimates and found that cash reduces both stunting and wasting, but only by 1.3%. Also, consumption of animal-source foods is up by 6.7% and diarrhea incidence declines by 1.7%. However, they detected no significant effect of cash transfers on weight-for-height and weight-for-age z-scores. Also interesting to note that well-designed behavior change communication was effective in improving eight-for-age z-scores and decreasing the prevalence of diarrhea.

Speaking of updates, the third version of the Ukraine tracker on social protection and humanitarian assistance for displaced populations is out: the latest edition by Gentilini et al captures information on 519 measures (10% of which are in the form of cash transfers) across 39 countries (figure 1). Such level of measures represents an increase by nearly 70% since the previous version of mid-March.

Since I mentioned displaced populations, Roelen and Carter assess whether social assistance scaled up in the pandemic was inclusive of vulnerable populations, including people with disabilities, seniors, minority groups, migrants and displaced people. Based on key informant interviews (see table 2.1, p.17) and 11 case studies (table 2.2, p.18), the authors distill 4 main lessons: (i) some countries were able to adapt design to rapidly evolving contexts, such as hanging eligibility criteria in Pakistan; (ii) local government engagement in social assistance may make it more likely that marginalized populations are included (e.g., Indonesia acting on local knowledge); (iii) similarly, grass-roots organizations play a crucial role in inclusion (e.g., outreach and enrollment support in Thailand); and (iv) multistakeholder platforms such as in South Africa can be more effective in changing design than individual grievance mechanisms. Bonus: interested in lessons on cash transfers from another pandemic, Ebola? Then check out the new blog on 3 key lessons from Guinea by De Walque and Mavridis.

More on barriers to accessing social protection: Penyelidikan has a piece examining Covid-related cash transfers through a modern slavery prevention lens; and Hebbar examines the experience of the Philippines in improving the capacity of local government institutions to increase awareness and uptake of social protection programs. Bonus on institutions: analysis on social protection spending in 132 countries by Vinci et al suggests that enhancing the capacity of institutions and public authorities is one of the key factors in impacting expenditures.

Let’s stay in East Asia, where a new paper by Kidd et al argues that establishing universal child, disability and old age benefits would dampen inequality significantly: “… recurrent investment of one percent of GDP in a modern, inclusive lifecycle system would bring about a reduction in the Gini coefficient of between 4.9 and 7 percent”. The paper’s figure 5.4 (p.27) makes a particularly stark contrast with poverty-targeted programs, with the argument replicated on the pensions front (figure 5.7, p.30). Among the options to augment formalization, the authors suggest to “… institute a Universal Child Benefit (UCB) but only pay it to those who have made an annual income declaration. In practical terms, families could make an income declaration at the same time as applying for the UCB”.

Oh, important news on pensions! Zviniene et al offer a comprehensive review of public pension schemes in Brazil and argue that the country’s pension system “takes up an oversized proportion of its social protection spending”.

Moving to Africa, a new book on social contracts in the region by Cloutier et al presents a fascinating set of case studies from Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia and South Africa. Based on those cases and the broader literature, the volume argues that social protection can shape the nature of citizen-state relations in 4 ways, namely via formalization, the degree of state partnership, conditionality, and targeting (h/t Aline Coudouel).

What about South Asia? Roy and van der Weide estimate how poverty and inequality have evolved in India since 2011 using the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey conducted by a private firm. Among the key results, interesting to note that extreme poverty is 12.3 percentage points lower in 2019 than in 2011 (most gains in rural areas), and that urban poverty rose by 2 pp in 2016.

Finally, the Transfer Project released its April newsletter, and on June 2 there is a workshop at the Max Planck Institute on methodological and conceptual challenges of comparative social protection analysis.

p.s. links will pause for a week (I didn’t take a break last time I announced it, let’s see this time!)


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. 

To sign up to the newsletter or share materials, you can contact Ugo by email ([email protected]), Twitter (@ugentilini) or LinkedIn.

Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
  • Social insurance
    • Maternity / Paternity / Parental benefits
    • Old-age pension
    • Work injury benefits
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
    • Governance and coordination
    • Situation analysis / needs assessment
  • Programme design
    • Eligibility criteria
    • Targeting
  • Programme implementation
    • Enrolment / registration
    • Feedback and complaints mechanisms
  • Programme performance / impact analysis
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Child-sensitive social protection
  • Social protection systems
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Health
    • COVID-19
  • Inequalities
  • Labour market / employment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Cameroon
  • Guinea
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Senegal
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Brazil
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine
  • East Asia & Pacific
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's