Let’s explore the interface between social protection and health programs! In Ghana, de Groot et al examine the mixed impacts of combing cash transfers and health insurance fee waivers for pregnant women and infants: household-level food security improved, but child meal frequency decreased (possibly because of intra-household allocation). They concluded that “…cash alone is unlikely to yield impacts on young child nutrition outcomes” (emphasis added). Bonus: here is a systematic review by Thurstan et al on the relationship between wasting and stunting, hot off the press.

Continuing on health-social assistance links, in Ethiopia a study by Mussa et al investigates the relationship between participating in PSNP public works and enrolling in community-based health insurance (CBHI) in the Amhara region. It found that that accessing PSNP public works increased the probability of CBHI enrolment by female-headed households by 16.3 percentage points. The authors hypothesized that effects could be prompted by “… easing financial constraints to pay for CBHI registration and annual fees, increasing households’ awareness about the benefits of health insurance, and improving households’ health-seeking behaviour through information from community health extension workers, social workers and other platforms such as behavioural change communication sessions”.

But that’s not all on Ethiopia’s PSNP! Ranganathan et al found that public works reduced intimate partner violence in two ways: via improving emotional wellbeing and economic security, and reducing intrahousehold conflict (participants reporting decreases in poverty-related stress). Public works complementary programs (including both “productive” and nutrition-related, see table 4) also led to similar effects, but also enhanced women’s empowerment (improving gender roles and men’s gender equitable attitudes). Bonus: “payments for environmental services” is a particular way of conceiving public works which Duc Truong shows has large effects on forestation activities in Vietnam.

Speaking of public works and women empowerment, Rodriguez analyzed how India’s NREGA program influenced the demand for microfinance and violence against women. Results show that as women participate in the program, demand for credit and savings soars and violence against women declines (h/t Amber Peterman).

More on stress-reducing effects of social assistance: a report by CLASP on the effects of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) program in the US show that about 70% of beneficiaries reported they were “… less stressed about money”. The CTC “… improved their relationships with their spouse, friends or family”, and allowed them “… to pay for toys, gifts, or activities for their children, and has allowed them to buy more or higher quality food”. Importantly, respondents with incomes of <$50k the CTC cash transfers “… made it easier for them to work (32 percent), compared to respondents earning over $50,000 (20 percent).

Since I mentioned work, Ryandita and Mahmud have a handy annotated bibliography on social protection and employment! This includes 430 materials organized around 5 thematic areas, i.e., pandemic responses, cash plus/productive inclusion, public works, labor markets, and skills development.

More on work: in Turkey, a paper by Asik et al evaluates the impact of wage subsidy scheme covering employers’ social contribution costs on registered employment in small firms. Results? the subsidy had a sizable and positive impact on formal employment. And in Brazil, Cepaluni et al show that between 2001 and 2015 the Bolsa CCT program does not reduce child labor. This is because it’s “… contextual and familial factors [that] appear to shape program efficacy in mitigating this troubling practice”, not the program itself.

Turning to education (which CCTs often contribute to), check out Pritchett’s fantastic blog showing (see figures 2a and 2b) the evolution of schooling and reading by children in Grade 5… quite a few countries have paired progress on enrollment with significant setbacks on learning!

Let’s continue with LAC resources: WFP and CDEMA released a handbook on shock-responsive social protection in the Caribbean. The report provides a rich set of practical insights – e.g., box 24 on the joint NGO-government cash platform in the British Virgin Islands – and comes with 7 case studies (i.e., ArubaBelizeDominicaGuyanaJamaicaSt Maarten, and Trinidad and Tobago).

News from high income settings? Brewer et al undertook an in-depth review of the UK social protection system which they deem “… not well-placed to meet the scale and nature of challenges ahead”. This is because of three main factors, namely the “erosion of the contributory principle”; benefit levels falling behind average incomes (because tied to consumer prices instead); and “targeting support for extra costs towards lower-income families”. The net result is “… a system that provides very low amounts of basic income support, (…) favouring lower-income families with children over single adults”. Bonus: a theoretical paper by Aase has a model to infer how risk is optimally distributed between individuals according to their preferences and initial endowments.

… and from government spending to financing by institutions: Razavi et al examined 148 IMF country reports on pandemic responses and found that, with regards to cash transfers, the institution “… supported or recommended the expansion of cash transfers to cushion the impact of the crisis in 79 countries, always adding further recommendations, such as stronger targeting, consolidating overlapping programmes, eliminating “inefficient” programmes and withdrawing additional expenditure once the crisis was under control”. The authors also noted that “… there is clear continuity in the [pre and post Covid] emphasis placed on balanced budgets and policies recommending fiscal austerity”. Bonus: Goldblatt argues that “… attention to economic inequality, via social protection and other means, within the Sustainable Development Goals marks a new phase in the developing interpretation of the right to social security by UN bodies”.

Final fireworks! Agyemang et al simulate ‘informal urbanization’ in Ghana; Verhagen et al have a USAID report on the future of food security; Danquah and Ouattara show that DAC development aid flows significantly improve social cohesion; Sumner and Ortiz-Juarez remind us that only about one third of the data used to estimate global poverty is from real survey data; and by 2050, a quarter of the world’s people will be African.


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
        • Conditional cash transfers
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
      • Service subsidies
        • Health benefits / reduced medical fee
  • Social insurance
    • Public health insurance
  • Labour market / employment programmes
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Expenditure and financing
  • Programme design
    • Targeting
  • Programme implementation
Social Protection Approaches: 
  • Social protection systems
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Education
  • Disaster risk management / reduction
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Inequalities
  • Labour market / employment
    • Informality
  • Microfinance
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Brazil
  • United States
  • India
  • Turkey
  • Latin America & Caribbean
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's