Hot off the press! The Partnership for Economic Inclusion just released its flagship “The State of Economic Inclusion 2021” by Andrews et al. Lots of great content on how social assistance, livelihoods and jobs, and financial inclusion interact to support vulnerable populations. About half of programs tend to be located in Africa, while their management falls in almost equal measure between governments and NGOs. I really enjoyed the crisp and balanced discussion on factors hindering scale up (p.38) as well on evidence (p. 116) and costs (p.152). You can also look individually at the overview, 4 case studies (SahelBiharBangladesh, and Peru), 3 spotlights (Covid-19gender empowerment, and market linkages), and 10 key findings. Plus… a portal includes plenty of data on costing and design features! Bonus: tune in for the report’s launch on January 26.

But hey, why only one report when you can get two? Another great paper on economic inclusion was produced by the FAO! Focused on rural areas, it sets out very nicely the role of social protection within multisectoral interventions (p.9 and p.23), and identifies an array of knowledge gaps around measurement and operations (p.24).

Since I mentioned different sectors, what do we know about the effects of social assistance on education in Africa? Evans and Mendez Acosta examine 145 recent empirical studies (from 2014 onward), 12 of which on cash transfers. What did they find? Cash transfers “… are reasonably consistent in increasing access to school but not at improving learning”. This is hardly surprising given the multiple constraints to learning. Yet another safety net program, school feeding, “… offers consistent gains in access and learning”. Trust this will generate an interesting conversation on such difference!

Let’s move to another key sector… food security. A brief on Indonesia prepared by Halim et al finds that the pandemic increased intimate partner violence among 83% of survey respondents, and food insecurity was among the strongest predictors of exposure to gender based violence. Bonus: USAID et al issued guidance on better gender outcomes in food assistance (and tip sheets).

BTW, have been playing a lot lately with the Covid-19 high-frequency monitoring dashboard. Developed by my Poverty colleagues, it includes various indicators on the impact of the pandemic across countries. For example, one of the tabs measures the % of households “worried about running out of food due to lack of income”: for 13 survey countries in Africa, such share ranges between a staggering 44-87%.

But there are also solutions! In India, Armand et al document a new form of conditional cash transfers in urban slums. The scheme tied the provision of Rs 2500-5000 ($35-70) to listening and paying attention to prerecorded Covid messages from doctors. Results? The CCT was quite effective in busting myths and fake news! Dosage also mattered: those receiving $70 had a 30% higher probability to disagreeing with the statement “Indians have a stronger immune system against the Virus” than those getting $35. Bonus: join a great JPAL event on Covid-19 in India on January 29!

More on benefit levels: what factors can determine an increase in transfer size? In Mauritius, growth in social pension benefits seems linked to political elections in 1995, 2005, 2014 and 2019 — check out this video and see here for the data (h/t Charles Knox-Vydmanov). Bonus: Kidd calls for Marcus Rashford in helping to reverse the downward trend in real value of UK child benefits.

From size of benefits to their duration: in Ecuador, Covid-19 increased extreme poverty fourfold (from 9 to 38%). Jara et al show that a one-off cash transfer of $120 increased income of the poorest by 13%; but it was largely insufficient to offset the pandemic’s effects at both the bottom and middle of the distribution.

In the Andean region, cash is… on the move! Grasset and Khattak documents how Save the Children adapted its cash transfers to Venezuelans settling in Peru and affected by Covid-19. Bonus on forced mobility: what do we know about the effects of deportation? A new paper by Bandiera et al on El Salvador finds that “… the experience of being detained and deported can have strong negative effects not only on the deportees, but also on their receiving communities”.

Moving to North America, when it comes to social protection it seems that “… Bob Rubin and Joe Stiglitz found something they agree on” (but they disagree on “… on how or when deficit-increasing measures in today’s weak economy need to be offset with long-term deficit-reducing measures”); the Jain Family has a new paper “Reweaving the Safety Net: The Best Fit for Guaranteed Income” (h/t Molly Dektar); and Santens makes an engineering case for UBI.

From domestic to foreign assistance: an interesting blog on aid allocation by Kenny argues that “… governments aren’t trying to maximize global utility in all of their spending [but this] should at least be the primary goal. And if it is, that suggests a laser focus on the poorest countries”.

Time to dig deeper into labor and skills issues (with Michal Weber and Indhira Santos)! Looking for inspiration on rethinking social protection for workers in non-standard contracts? A new piece by Yang et al discusses options to extend social insurance to independent arts workers in California.

Triple reviews! Oh et al have a systematic review of US postsecondary education and job skills training programs; Thomas and Morgan’s literature review examines job retention interventions for people with disabilities; and Katz et al take stock of the evidence of sector-focused training programs for low-wage workers (combining upfront screening, occupational and soft skills training, and wraparound services): these schemes generate substantial and persistent earnings gains (11 to 40 percent) following training completion.

Speaking of low-income… Aguero et al argue that merit-based college scholarships for disadvantaged students could convey both a positive signal to employers (on the candidate’s cognitive and soft skills) as well as some negative ones (which may generate discrimination against poor households). Their evaluation of the Beca 18 merit-based scholarship in Peru show that positive signals dominate (a scholarship recipient increases the likelihood of getting a callback for a job interview by 20%).

Final news! Glennerster et al have a great roundup of 11 resources on indirect impacts of Covid-19; a brief by Dreesen et al explores promising practices for equitable remote learning in 127 countries; Nigeria launched its biggest public works scheme in its history reaching 750,000 people; there is a webinar on January 27 on cash transfers in fragile states organized by INCLUDE et al, while CaLP has an event on progress and challenges on cash transfers in humanitarian assistance (in Spanish).


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 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.

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
      • In kind transfers
        • School feeding programmes
  • Social insurance
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Active labour market programmes / Productive inclusion
      • Job training
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Global
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's