“Give a man a fish…” to produce more fish? Daidone et al simulated the local economic multipliers of six interventions in Lesotho combined in different ways. These include (i) child grants (CGP) only, (ii) CGP and community savings (SILC), (iii) CGP and homestead gardening (KHG), (iv) CGP, SILC and KHG, (v) CGP and market clubs (which connect villages with higher outside prices for the food they produce), and finally (vi) CGP and all the other interventions combined (SPRING). Results? (i) has a real (inflation-adjusted) multiplier of 1.67, that is, every $1 transferred as cash generates $0.67 in real-income spillovers; multipliers for scenarios (ii) and (iii) are higher than for (i), but the difference is not statistically significant; and for scenario (iv), the multiplier coefficient jumps to 2. The real boost comes with combining cash plus market clubs and with all interventions leading to multipliers of 2.48 and 3.05, respectively. But what about cost-effectiveness? Real benefit-cost ratios range from 1.49 (CGP and SILC) to 2.31 (CGP and market clubs), with cash-only being somewhere in the middle (1.63).

More from the region: in South Africa, an article by Gelo et al investigates the relationship between eligibility to the Old Age Pension program and energy use. It found that program participation increases primary reliance on electricity (for lighting, heating, and cooking), while reducing dependence on biomass and other polluting fuels.

Let’s discuss financing… how could tax collection be enhanced in Africa? This one looks juicy: Traore et al estimate that exchanging information between national tax authorities could increase tax revenue collection by 5-19%. Bonus on fiscal issues: a global cross-county analysis by Milivojevic shows that a drought of one standard deviation above the mean of the disaster index increases debt-to-GDP by 1.58 percentage points.

Moving to Europe, a new report by the EC explores the future of social protection in the region. There is a lot to like about the publication, including the interesting discussion on forms of employment (yes, non-standard employment is high, but it hasn’t changed much over time, see p.20); the intriguing reference to Denmark and the Netherlands’ guaranteed minimum income schemes combining rights-based, high-level minimum income benefits with and incentives to work (p.48); the fact that operational costs of social protection are only 4.5% (p.66); and I enjoy the discussion on rethinking taxation, including innovations in indirect taxes (e.g., environmental taxes) (p.75).

Triple bonus: a Eurobarometer survey shows that 78% of Europeans believe that social spending should increase (and that the wealthy should pick up the tab). Moore et al set out a vision for social protection and “new politics of care” in the UK. And a presentation on Italy by De Angelis et al notes that “with the abrogation of the [guaranteed minimum income program] the system will miss the only support for workers marginalized by the contributory system”.

And on the other side of the Atlantic… a study on the US by Pilkauskas et al examines a one-off unconditional transfer of $1,000 provided to ex-SNAP recipients by 12 states during the pandemic. The program had no impact on any of the main outcomes of interest, like material hardship, mental health, parenting, child behavior, and partner relationships.

News on targeting? A paper by Ohlenburg et al presents a new “truncated early stopping algorithm” that would shorten the questionnaire used for proxy means testing by 61% (from 23 to 9 questions) while maintaining the method’s performance constant. It may sound complicated, but in practice its limited computational requirements make it usable on standard digital data collection mobile devices. See also an accompanying blog with cool graphs (h/t/ Juul Pinxten).

The latest on health: Schraufnagel and Shete comment on the article by Dave and Rupani showing that India’s Direct Benefit Transfers improve tuberculosis treatment. BTW, this nutrition-related evaluation will be interesting, check out the study protocol for a randomized trial by Custodio et al comparing the performance of lipid-based supplements versus unconditional cash transfers in Angola.

A trio of humanitarian resources: the February edition of Kelly’s humanitarian evidence and discourse summary features 37 new materials. Kamal et al argue that in Myanmar, “how aid is provided and who is providing it are much more important than the aid itself”. And Tschunkert et al explore the potential for external financing to operationalize of the “humanitarian, development and peacebuilding nexus” in South Sudan: the sobering bottom line is that “… donor financing remains largely siloed [and] earmarked, which prevents much-needed collaboration among implementing actors and limits the ability to pool resources and adapt” (h/t Mattias Lundberg).

Final roundup! Halim et al lay out four findings on gender and social protection, namely around multifaceted programs, transfer size (chunky) and frequency (one-off), public works, and stress; Schuster et al collect and harmonize data on attitudes and experience of 1.3 million civil servants in 1,300 government agencies in 23 countries; Van Parijs reviews the new book by Bardhan arguing that insecurity, and not inequality, is the source of democratic malaise (and calls for a UBI); and a fascinating webinar on “Disaster Risk Financing meets Adaptive Social Protection” is coming up on Feb 14.


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
        • Unconditional cash transfers
        • Social pensions
    • Social care services
    • Tax credits / exemptions
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Passive labour market policies
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Expenditure and financing
  • Programme design
    • Benefits design
    • Eligibility criteria
    • Targeting
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Shock-responsive social protection
  • Social protection systems
  • Universal Social Protection
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Climate change
  • Environment
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Health
    • COVID-19
  • Inclusive growth
  • Labour market / employment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Resilience
  • Angola
  • Lesotho
  • South Africa
  • South Sudan
  • United States
  • Italy
  • United Kingdom
  • Europe & Central Asia
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's