Can cash transfers be an entry point for reducing violence? The Philippines’ Pantawid conditional cash transfer program includes monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS) covering topics like, among others, child protection and gender-based violence. A trial by Lachman et al in Taguig city compared the efficacy of FDS to a new group-based parenting program (MaPa). The MaPa model involves group discussions, illustrated stories, collaborative problem solving, and practicing skills at home (plus SMS messages and phone consultations, see video). After one year, the risk of child neglect among MaPa participants was reduced by 41% relative to FDS parents, and the likelihood of intimate partner violence declined by 49%. MaPa parents also reported lower emotional abuse and fewer child behavior problems (h/t Amber Peterman).

From violence to piece: an Australian Aid report by Mahmud and Sharpe explores how social protection can help strengthen social cohesion. Among the themes, I particularly enjoyed the range of transmission mechanisms to forge state-citizens social contracts – e.g., pending on how interventions are implemented, social protection can either cement or undermine trust in the states (e.g., Sri Lanka and Peru); it can help prevent possible social tensions associated with major economic reforms (e.g., Indonesia and China); and it can help “move on from periods of social unrest” (e.g., Mexico and Timor-Leste).

From unrest to Covid: Younger et al show that in Uganda, the pandemic reduced incomes of 65% of the population (or 9% of monthly GDP) and wiped out poverty gains reaped over the past decade. They then simulate the effects of alternative interventions (see take 6 page 15): (i) a UBI of 9,831 shillings/adult would return poverty line to its pre-crisis level and cost 3.6% of GDP; (ii) transfers to only those living in (pre-Covid) poverty would reduce the poverty rate by 5 percentage points (pp) and cost less than 1/5 of a UBI; (iii) the expansion of eligibility for the SAGE social pension (from 80 to 65 years of age) would cost the same (0.8% GDP) but reduce poverty only by 0.3 pp; and (iv) and an urban public works scheme would have same effects on poverty as social pensions but cost a little less (0.5% GDP). Bonus on Africa: in Namibia, the one-off Covid cash grant (reaching 740,000 people) took no longer than 72 hours, from application to bank transfer: “…national ID became a key enabler for the purpose of gaining access to the grant”, notes a brief by UNECA and API-CRVS.

Let’s take a look at technology: Marchenko and Sheng Chia explore a cash transfer program in Togo (which scaled up from 35,000 to 100,000 people) embodying a paradigm shift for social protection dubbed “MobileAid” – that is, one combining machine learning-based targeting, recipient self-enrollment and contactless delivery via mobile money. OCHA has a new report on digital and emerging technologies in humanitarian action: the topic is of course complex, but the publication navigates key issues in a concise and structured way, e.g., see section on opportunities and challenges on digital cash transfers (p.15-16) and blockchain (p.23-24). On a more sobering note, a lessons-learned paper by the OECD noted that “… low-income and middle-income country innovations still receive a very small share of investment”; and an article by Gupta et al is critical about governments’ Covid responses to poverty as these “… have ignored underlying ‘drivers’ and ‘pressures’, instead aiming at a quick recovery of the economy”.

Speaking of structured resources, the SPACE team has released a very useful directory of social protection materials related to the pandemic. Curated by Barca, it includes a section on data and socio-economic impacts; another encompassing global trackers, country case studies and emerging lessons learned; and a third section featuring 20 themes spanning contexts (e.g., humanitarian linkages, urban areas), profiles (e.g., informal workers), cross-cutting issues (e.g., gender, financing) as well as an array of delivery functions (e.g., information systems, payments, etc.) and interventions (e.g., public works, school feeding, child benefits, etc.).

Time for labor and skills issues (h/t Michael Weber)! On formalization and formal measures: Duval Hernandez found that in urban Mexico, women with greater responsibilities at home are less likely to want formal employment (and also face a lower probability of being hired in such jobs). And in Bangladesh, Nakata et al show that recognition of prior learning increases the chances of finding work through formal job search channels and at formal and larger private companies. future research. And Bartel et al estimate that New York’s 2018 paid family leave policy improved employers’ rating of their ease of handling long employee absences (especially in the first year of the measure) and increased employee leave-taking in the second policy year.

From NYC to Washington: a paper on the “Washington Consensus” may spark some interesting debates… Archibong et al revisited the evidence on adoption and effects of market-oriented structural reforms in sub-Saharan Africa and found that “… following initial declines in per capita economic growth over the 1980s and 1990s, reform adopters experienced notable increases in per capita real GDP growth in the post 2000 period”. More on the urban dimension of the continent: the foreword to the annual report of Cities Alliance underscores that “… the world’s urban poor were unable to follow the most basic advice for containing the pandemic and had neither the reserves nor the safety nets needed to suspend social and economic activity”.

Let me end with a poker of blogs – Shekar et al offers key take aways from a Finance ministers discussion on food and nutrition security; Hoftijzer et al underscore the urgency of reforms in technical and vocational education and training (TVET); Saliola sets out 3 ways to improve active labor market policies; on the humanitarian front, Zarnegar Deloffre considers Lowcock’s proposal for an independent commission for “Voices in Crisis” a way to “… changing the referee instead of changing the game”.


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
  • Labour market programs/Public work/Productive inclusion
    • Labour market programs/Public work/Productive inclusion - General
Social Protection Topics: 
  • Benefits payment/delivery
  • Targeting
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Education
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Global
  • Global
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