Can universal social protection be achieved through a single program? Our new book offers a framework to navigate the universal basic income (UBI) debate, one of the hottest globally. Based on three years of work involving 12 authors, new estimates and over 800 papers reviewed, the volume dwells into UBI history, narratives, comparative design features, experiences, evidence across multiple dimensions, novel tax-benefit simulations for 10 low and middle-income countries, fiscal space, political economy and practical delivery. The analysis unbundles a range of trade-offs related to UBI, identifies contexts where UBI is more or less likely to be considered as a social assistance option, and sets out emerging knowledge and operational gaps.

Speaking of UBI, a widely-discussed experimental study by Egger et al quantifies the economic effects from dropping a flat payment of $1,000 to 10,500 people. Results? They add another precious data point on the multiplier effects of cash transfers (I counted 12 such points for the moment): in this case, every $ injected generates $2.6 in the local economy (h/t Paul Niehaus). Bonus: Izquierdo et al find that more general public investment multipliers are higher in countries with a low initial stock of public capital (as % of GDP).

Let’s stay in Africa, with one of the papers that most clearly documents the life-saving effects of cash transfers. In Nigeria, an article by Okeke and Abubakar shows that a health-related conditional cash transfer of $14 reduced mortality of children in utero by at least 20%. A total of 260 children in a study survived only because of the intervention!

More on children: de Hoop et al unbundle the complexity of balancing negative and positive effects of cash transfers on children. Based on evidence from Malawi and Zambia, they show that programs may increase children’s work in household enterprises. These expose children to hazards in Malawi and excessive working hours in Zambia. However, both programs also induced positive changes in other child well-being domains, such as school attendance and material welfare.

Moving to Asia, McClanahan and Gelders examine the prospects for multi-tiered child benefits in Vietnam. The paper offers a range of considerations on how to reconcile incentives and rights perspectives, as well as laying out detailed cost estimates on p.53-58 (see also discussion on political economy, p.33, and on capping benefits to avoid effects on fertility, p.34). BTW, how can we best advance children’s rights in the digital age? A UNICEF report examines the quandary via survey results from more than 14,000 internet-using children across 11 countries.

Since I mentioned digital… does a change in cash payment technologies impact beneficiaries? A JDS article by Masino and Nino-Zarazua exploring such questions for Mexico is now open access: it finds that switching from manual to electronic payments delivered via savings accounts had medium-term effects on savings decisions, transaction costs, and coping strategies. Bonus: one of the authors, Nino-Zarazua, also has a WIDER discussion paper reviewing the first and second-order effects of social assistance globally, particularly on poverty, education, health and labor markets.

What’s new on gender? Nothing less than a great duo of ODI papers! Lowe et al explore the linkages between the social protection, water and gender sectors, while a report by Holmes et al unveils the political economy factors that support or hinder a gendered approach and identifies entry points for action.

Let’s move to crises and resilience: based on cases studies from Turkey, Lebanon and Cameroon, a K4D review by Idris looks at the alignment between humanitarian response (in refugee crises) and national social protection systems.

Can a sudden crisis-response program become a constitutional right? The journey of the Greek guaranteed minimum income scheme (SSI), which covers 450,000 people with an average €213/month, is truly remarkable, involving piloting from scratch, evaluation, redesign, roll-out, maturing of delivery, and now legislation (h/t Christian Bodewig).

From assistance to jobs, with the usual labor and skills corner in partnership with Indhira Santos and Michal Weber): Mihi-Ramirez et al estimate that immigration is good economics: a greater number of immigrants in Spain boost foreign direct investment, remittances sent and received, and Spanish imports and exports to the immigrants’ countries of origin.

… and social security is good economics too: Torm shows that a 10% increase in social security spending is associated with better business performance, including a per‐worker revenue gain of up to 2%. In Kenya, however, a PPI piece warns that the recent retirement of about 50,000 civil servants increased the pension bill by 63%, prompting Treasury’s red flag over rising expenses.

What can affect public support for social protection? Yang and Yong Kwon document that countries with encompassing unions at national and industry levels have higher levels of overall support for government intervention to reduce income inequality.

Final fireworks: De Bellefon et al develop a new dartboard methodology to delineate urban areas using detailed information about buildings’ location, with an application to France; a fabulous reading list on the sociology of state-formation, revolution, and class consciousness (h/t Alice Evans); and a new toolkit was launched on ILO’s Social Security Standards.

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
  • Social insurance
    • Old-age pension
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment/delivery
Social Protection Approaches: 
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Education
  • Gender
  • Health
  • Labour market / employment
  • Poverty reduction
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Cameroon
  • Malawi
  • Nigeria
  • Zambia
  • Mexico
  • Lebanon
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam
  • Spain
  • Global
The views presented here are the author's and not's