Let’s begin with a dilemma that many countries face: with Covid-19 having increased poverty and economic hardship, should governments consider fiscal austerity, continue social protection “business as usual” or enhancing its coverage? An upcoming article by Aransiola et al addresses the question with an analysis from Brazil. Specifically, they compare austerity with a package involving increased coverage of conditional cash transfers, social pensions, and primary health care (the ‘mitigation’ scenario in the figure above). Results? Compared to austerity, the package would avert up to 1.4 million deaths, including saving the lives of over 200,000 children under 5 years of age, as well as over 15 million hospitalizations.
More on Covid-19: an empirical regularity across regions is the higher coverage of social assistance among rural households relative to their urban peers. Such spatial difference is mirrored in a number of pandemic responses: for instance, a new paper by Choudhuri et al estimated that in India’s Delhi National Capital Region the likelihood of urban residents being covered by cash transfers was 8 percentage points lower than among rural dwellers (check out also an abridged version of the analysis).
That’s not all on urban issues: with 2 billion people expected to live in slums by 2030, and several binding urban infrastructure constraints, how to render adequate low-income housing is a key issue among central and local governments. A global review by Kamunyori et al examines the housing question through the lens of a “site and services” approach. This involves a gradual approach whereby serviced land is provided to low-income beneficiaries to incrementally build homes over time. Popular in the 1960-70s, and subsequently abandoned, the approach was resurrected as “… determination of past sites and services performance was either made too early or used narrowly defined metrics”. See the crisp boxes with key messages on, for example, cost recovery (p.21), financing (p.23), and implementation (p.26).
Back to India! Owning a financial account doesn’t automatically lead to using financial services and digital payments: a paper by Gelb et al examines a survey of India’s PMGKY beneficiaries (200+ millions of whom received Covid cash transfers) and found that, among respondents with specific characteristics like being female, illiterate and living in a household with no smartphone, the probability of reporting the use of digital payments is between 1 and 3.9%. Bonus on digital access: Caswell and Downer tackle the question in the context of displacement-affected communities in Sudan’s White Nile.
Oh, on displacement… there are no quick wins in connecting humanitarian assistance and social protection: a blog by Levine argues that in Cameroon, harmonizing transfer values (downwards) between assistance for displaced populations and those of the national safety net program doesn’t necessarily constitute “coherence” in approaches (see also the full paper) (h/t Zehra Rizvi).
A new report by Stoddard et al investigates if and how international humanitarian assistance dovetails national systems in Ukraine. Among the findings, it argues that the “… instead of international entities topping up and helping to expand the government’s pre-existing social protection mechanism as a unified system (or alternatively setting up a unified humanitarian cash mechanism), multiple cash distribution platforms and registries have been established”.
Let’s dig deeper on gender resources: a great new brief by Peterman and Roy offers with practical tips on adapting cash transfers for preventing and mitigating gender-related intimate partner violence. For instance, see table 1, p.5 for design tweaks at household and individual level (e.g., “… [i]f transfers are capped at the household level, consider classifying co-wives in polygamous households as distinct households, such that each co-wife qualifies for her own transfer”). Table 2, p.7 also offers insights on transfers amounts, frequency, and duration, while table 3, p.8 deals with pay-point recommendations.
More on human capital: Aurino et al provide further insight into the dynamic relationship between child health and parental socio-economic status over time. In particular, they show that the association is small at birth, increases throughout childhood and dwindles at adolescence. BTW, Monroe writes about how “poverty leaves scars for life (…) It requires time, effort, energy, organisation, impetus, an internal calculator and steely mental fortitude that those in the Treasury could only dream of possessing”.
And the jump from Treasury to spending rounds up this links edition: Hallaert and Primus penned a public expenditure review for Bulgaria showing that, among other findings, the absence of automatic indexation of benefits contributed to falling social protection spending. And “Optimus”, an optimization tool allowing to rapidly compare cost-effectiveness of alternative transfers, is the winner of WFP’s internal annual awards.
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.