With food inflation remaining alarmingly high, the question of how social protection can help address food security and nutrition is becoming increasingly central. The issue is not new, of course, but it’s a good moment for a thorough refresher: our slim edited report takes stock of empirical and practical issues, including updating the evidence base on social protection and nutrition (by Manley et al, see table 2.3 and 2.4, p.18-19); ironing out key conceptual and transmission mechanisms connecting the two spheres (Alderman, see figure above); presenting experiences in crisis response and preparedness (Almenfi, Iyengar and Arruda); and discussing examples of food subsidy reforms based on pragmatically “improving what exists” as well as embarking on more “radical reforms” in Asia (Puri and Mahardika). Bonus: the USP2030 Working Group on Social Protection and Food Systems discussed these issues at an event yesterday.

Speaking of edited volumes, a refreshing book by Riisgaard et al observed that “… [t]he dominant social protection agenda [comes] with an almost exclusive focus on donor and state programmes”. Situated at the intersection of social protection, informality, and collective organizing, the volume’s 11 chapters explore how informal workers in the transport, construction, and micro-trade sectors in Kenya and Tanzania access formal and informal social protection. A must read! (BTW, FAO et al just hosted an event on social protection for agrifood system workers in West Africa).

More on informality! ILO issued a comprehensive review of programs and informal worker profiles in Sudan. What’s the main message? It recommends a dual strategy to “extend social insurance (…) to workers who are already relatively close to the formal economy”, compounded by a “… gradual extension of non-contributory social protection schemes to complement social insurance” (see figure 6, p.89).

BTW, since I mentioned social insurance, the barriers to accessing those measures are among the themes discussed by FAO’s new report connecting social protection and fisheries interventions (see box 3, p.12). And in the Philippines, a study by Macusi et al estimates that in the Davao Gulf “… [m]ore than 75% of the fishers were willing to leave the fisheries if given Php15,000 [$290] as a cash subsidy”.

On transitioning out of specific industries: a hat-trick of papers by Christiaensen et al chronicles labor market challenges during the coal transition in three Polish regions – namely Wielkopolska, which is most advanced in the transition, Silesia, and lower Silesia. It’s a fantastic trio of resources showing the challenges in absorbing coal-affected workers, their different profiles and upskilling needs, and preferences towards job commuting and relocation.

Let’s stay in Europe, where a paper by Lanterna and Liberati investigates the use of the value added tax as a redistribution vehicle in Italy. The article shows that a VAT with multiple tax rate might not be the most effective way to pursue equity goals, and that “a shift to a uniform VAT coupled with cash transfers to households with children might better achieve redistributive targets”.

What about MENA? Nasri et al offer an overview of the social protection landscape in Tunisia. Their recommendations for social assistance include “accelerating the finalization of the MAS registry of beneficiaries (with the integration of data available across sectors/ministries); improve the coverage and quality of school meals; and to progressively reducing CGC food subsidy program (see figure 16, p.40 showing that food subsidies increased from 2.4% of GDP in 2010 to 5.6% in 2020).

News from LAC? AN OECD paper by Garda and Arnold examine how to enhance the social protection system in Colombia. The paper is filled with insightful analysis, e.g., they show that coverage of unemployment insurance is low and those that need it the most have no access (less than 1% of the unemployed have access to it among the bottom 3 deciles, see figure 24, p.42). Among the options for reform, they point to “a guaranteed-minimum-income scheme for the population aged below 65”, somewhat akin to the Covid Ingreso Solidario program.

Oh, on Covid… did cash transfers reduce Covid vaccine hesitancy? A paper by Schwalbe et al concludes that “coverage and intention to be vaccinated” increased, but “few studies considered these effects at population level and the ones that did found that improvements were limited”. So positive, but localized effects. And a paper by Attridge et al shows that 25 African public development banks “… have been adaptable and flexible in their operational and financial response to the unprecedented impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Data! Wagner et al have a fantastic implementation guide on social protection data protection and privacy rich in content and very user-friendly in format. Structured in 3 parts and 12 chapters, it covers the whole waterfront of technical issues, including principles, practices and standards. The guidance comes with a handy set of practical boxes, e.g., on definitional issues such as “automated decision-making and profiling”, p.37; on tools, like conducting a data protection impact assessment, p.56; and checklists, such as on data sharing, p.83.

And on data… “does a family of six needs three times as much as a family of two?”, asks a new paper by Jolliffe and Baah. This is an important question for measuring poverty since, the authors argue, poverty calculations don’t account for economies of scale in household size. When considered, the poverty status of 270 million people changes.

From poverty measurement to poverty’s origins: a thoughtful oped by Castel-Branco warns that while social protection is an “apparent counter-movement in development thinking”, taken alone it “cannot fundamentally change the organization of production and the structure of accumulation, which lie at the heart of deepening inequality”.

This looks like a cool humanitarian activity: OCHA tested the Anticipatory Action framework in the Philippines through a scenario-based Joint Simulation Exercise (SIMEX). This helped assess the effectiveness of activities like coordination with local authorities and prepositioning of assistance like cash and in-kind transfers. Bonus: the draft USAID Policy for Localization of Humanitarian Assistance is now open for public review, with deadline for comments set for November 9. Double bonus: here is a way to support a humanitarian fundraiser while taking a course on difference-in-differences estimators (h/t Mattias Lundberg).

And finally, beyond reading… the CGD Pandemic Proof podcast has its first episode featuring Dzau discussing investment and coordination for pandemic preparedness; the IPC-IG and WFP have an event on Nov 3 covering social protection and urban resilience in Mozambique and Madagascar; and later in the month, the Third Virtual OECD Policy Dialogue on Social Protection and Development will take place on Nov 29 (Day 1) and Nov 30 (Day 2).


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
      • In kind transfers
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
  • Social insurance
  • Labour market / employment programmes
    • Passive labour market policies
      • Unemployment benefits
        • Unemployment insurance (contributory)
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
  • Programme implementation
    • Enrolment / registration
    • Informations Systems (MIS, Social Registry, Integrated Registry)
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Agriculture and rural development
  • Environment
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Health
    • COVID-19
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Inequalities
  • Labour market / employment
    • Informality
  • Poverty reduction
  • Kenya
  • Madagascar
  • Mozambique
  • Sudan
  • Tanzania
  • Tunisia
  • Colombia
  • Philippines
  • Italy
  • Poland
  • East Asia & Pacific
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
The views presented here are the author's and not socialprotection.org's