Let’s start with… politics! Do cash transfers affect political engagement and voting preferences? Orkin and Walker show that in Kenya, voters (correctly) do not attribute a cash transfer program to local leaders, and receiving a cash transfer does not affect household’s voter turnout, vote choice, or favorability ratings of candidates (note that results also suggest poor people’s involvement in local processes may be limited by the time and monetary cost of participation) (h/t Evans and Music for signaling this and other cash pieces as part of their pyrotechnic NEUDC 2020 microsummaries of 225 papers).
From politics to design: does the timing of cash transfer provisions affect spending decisions? By evaluating lump-sum cash transfers in (again) Kenya and Malawi, Thakral and To find higher savings and assets among households that wait longer to receive the payment.
News from the Sahel! Here are the triple resilience-building effects of cash transfers in Niger: Premand and Stoeffler document that transfers increase household consumption by 10% (especially among those affected by droughts); augment savings; and protect earnings from farm/off-farm income during shocks. In Mali, Hidrobo et al estimate that cash transfers increase the probability of rural-rural migration among men by… 100%; but the transfer affects the migration of women differently – that is, leading to a 50% reduction of their domestic migration. Bonus on migration: Lafleur and Vintila are the editors of a three-volume, open access book on migration and Social Protection in Europe.
From economic mobility to forced displacement: Ozler et al evaluate the impact of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash transfers for 1.7M refugees in Turkey. The program helped reduce inequality (Gini index) by 15% within 6 months of program rollout, while poverty ($3.2/day) was halved in one year. The ESSN also led to moderate increases in food consumption, but no statistically significant effects were detected on school enrollment. Interestingly, the paper shows that refugee populations may respond to their eligibility status by altering their household structure and living arrangements. Bonus: check out the 8th edition of Kelly’s humanitarian evidence summaries.
More on crises, this time on Covid: Staunton et al provide examine South Africa’s response to Covid-19 from a legal/legislative standpoint, while looking ahead, Bhorat and Kohler suggest that an extension of the current grant policy package may be preferable to a basic income grant or special public works programs. Bonus the latter interventions: an ILO brief describes public works to provide access to safe water in Mindanao as implemented by community members and indigenous people.
Let’s move to LAC with not one, but two papers investigating the effects of Bolsa on formal employment in Brazil (hint: both find positive effects). Gerard et al find that it’s an act of balance between individual and aggregate effects: there are some negative effects in formal labor supply at individual level, but Bolsa’s large positive multipliers outpace micro disincentives. In another paper, Fruttero et al find that Bolsa beneficiaries are between 3.3 and 4.7 percentage points more likely to find formal jobs, especially among the younger cohorts. Why? Benefits can be used to meet job search costs and be indirectly associated with better long-term decisions in the labor market.
Another duo of papers, this time on cash transfers and child labor. One focuses on Tanzania and shows that programs need to be generous in order to offset opportunity costs: Andre et al estimate that a transfer of $10/month transfers would not be sufficient to achieve universal school enrollment of children of the 10-15 years cohort. The other paper by Roelen et al features a ‘cash plus’ intervention in two Dhaka slum areas. This explored how a range of design parameters could affect child labor, such as monthly versus quarterly payment frequency, and main recipient in the household (see p.29, “… there is strong consensus among parents and adolescents that payments should be given to the main woman of the household”). I also liked the discussion on challenges around urban community dynamics, political leaders, and middlemen.
Speaking of urban areas… urban informal jobs are hit hardest in Africa, argue Weber et. Nigeria reported that 56% of people with urban jobs had stopped working compared to 40% for rural jobs; Uganda follows the same pattern of job loss (29% urban vs 11% rural), and so do Ethiopia (12% urban vs 6% of rural) and Malawi (8% urban vs 6% of rural). Most of the jobs in urban areas are informal family businesses, 80% of which are not officially registered, 40% conduct their business at home and 82% don’t hire employees who are not household members. Bonus: Resnick examines the relationship between informality and tax compliance in Zambia, while Jessen and Kluve’s review of 38 evaluations finds that tax incentives are a particularly effective intervention to reduce informality.
So let’s get into the labor and skills corner (with Michael Weber and Indhira Santos). Christiaensen and Ferré examine the employment effects of Europe’s new Green Deal (decarbonization) in Greece’s Western Macedonia. Their survey of contractors suggests that about 16,000 jobs could potentially be affected by the closure of the mines, although the effects would depend on the coal transition path chosen, including the timing and labor intensity of the power plant decommissioning, land reclamation plans, and consultations with workers.
More on Europe: Yilmaz and Maxim reviewed the labor market and business regulations’ effects on unemployment in 11 EU transition economies over 2000–2016. Mixed effects here, with market-oriented labor market regulations diminishing unemployment in Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania, but they raised it in Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia. Meanwhile, market-oriented business regulations decreased unemployment in the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Poland, but they increased it in Croatia and Slovenia.
Skills! Rik van Berkel examines the literature on engaging employers in activation policies of jobseekers with disabilities; Doerr and Novella evaluate the effects of job trainings in Chile and find that they mostly fail to improving workers’ skills and labor outcomes, but some evidence on labor income is presented; and Eynon discsuses digital skills as part of a broader adult education agenda.
Final fireworks! Roelen has a podcast on social protection’s present and future featuring Bastagli and myself; the OCED issued a set of “donor peer reviews” providing lessons from all DAC member countries; ILO and UNHCR have a nice handbook on providing and extending healthcare coverage to refugees (really liked Annex 2 featuring a compilation of 6 country examples from Africa); and this one promises some fun: on Nov 17, Easterly will be moderating a Zoom discussion on RCTs with Deaton, Labrousse, Morduch, and Pritchett.
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 helps you stay on top of it — succinctly, regularly and frequently. Previous editions can be found here.