Two big questions: do cash transfers encourage mobility? And if so, do they affect men and women differently? An evaluation by Hidrobo et al, now in AJAE, found that the Mali Jigisémèjiri unconditional cash transfers program ($20/month + soft behavior change communication activities) increased rural-rural migration of men by 0.9 percentage points (basically by 100%); among women, instead, the program reduced rural-urban migration by 0.2 percentage points, or halving it. For men, cash-induced migration was concentrated among causal workers in the bottom four wealth quintiles, while for women migration occurred in the top wealth quintile (see also the authors’ IFPRI blog) (h/t Amber Peterman).
Quick bonus on gender – UNWOMEN takes stock of “how far have we come” in putting gender equality at the center of social protection. Spoiler alert: “few strategies include specific actions to address gender-specific vulnerabilities” (h/t Mohamed Almenfi).
From few to plenty… a poker of resources on universal basic income (most of them rather sobering): Wilson and McDaid review the effects of UBI on mental health. Out of 1566 articles on high-income contexts, none was found comparing the effects of truly universal payments. Outcomes, instead, were summarized for unconditional programs which “consistently reported clear and significant improvements in mental wellbeing” (via more social interactions, reduced perceived stigma, and renewed optimism for the future). In another article, Buchs compares UBI versus universal services and argues that are complementary approaches. Gundersen discusses how the US SNAP food voucher program could be converted into UBI: with a transfer size set at the maximum SNAP benefit, it would reduce food insecurity by 88.8% (from 35.2M to 3.9M people) at a cost of $730 billion. And finally, Suzuki assessed a UBI proposal in New Zealand (providing about $9,000/adult/year) and found that –because of behavioral (labor and savings) responses to higher taxes – the program would increase wealth inequality.
Speaking of labor… new evidence on active labor market measures: OECD countries spend on average about 0.5% of GDP on such programs – and Denmark, the focus of a new report by Rasmussen, spent 4 times as much on ALMPs. His research found that variation in caseworker quality can explain about 6% of the heterogeneity in unemployment spells within a jobcenter and year. And that high quality caseworkers tend to be more ’pro-active’ (e.g., they meet earlier and more frequently with jobseekers) (h/t Jose Romero).
And related to labor markets, what’s the harm posed by AI? Although not limited to AI specifically, Acemoglu’s long list of threats includes “… damaging competition, consumer privacy and consumer choice; excessively automating work, fueling inequality, inefficiently pushing down wages, and failing to improve worker productivity; and damaging political discourse, democracy’s most fundamental lifeblood”.
From risks to costs: yardsticks for fiscal sustainability often center on current revenues as % of GDP; instead, Bogetić et al take a different perspective and interpret domestic financing in dynamic terms… basically, they call attention on the full financing potential as, for instance, measured by the DEA index (which represents the “revenue frontier based on economic structure”). At the moment, an average of only 62% of such potential is being tapped across 118 countries.
More on potential… to reform! Food systems summit is approaching, so here are two reports on repurposing the world’s annual $540-700 billion support to agriculture are just off the press: one by FAO outlining 6 steps while another set of proposals are offered by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (h/t Patrick Webb).
Let’s move to very active humanitarian space: Aly reflects on last week’s event on “Anticipatory Action Event One” sponsored by OCHA, Germany and FCDO. One of the recommendations of the blog? “Linking up with government safety nets”. UNDP warns that a 10-13% reduction in GDP could, in the worst-case scenario, “… bring Afghanistan to the precipice of near universal poverty – a 97 percent poverty rate by mid-2022” (h/t Martin Ravallion); this week, CaLP and USAID hosted a meeting on cash coordination options; and CaLP itself released a video on its online course “Core Cash & Vouchers Skills for Programme Staff”.
From around the globe: Nakajubi has a blog on the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection urging that “we can’t postpone building a strong social security system”. The Southern African Social Protection Experts’ Network (SASPEN) will be hosting its 2021 International Annual Conference, apparently face-to-face, and cover the theme “Social Protection and Social Services in the SADC Region: Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030” (October 4-6); and an interesting WSJ piece delves on the post-Prospera cash transfers landscape in Mexico (h/t David McKenzie).
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.