Let’s look ahead: how may the future of social protection look like in Brazil? Morgandi et al offer ten short and medium-term proposals with varying degrees of poverty and fiscal implications, including around unemployment programs; supporting workers in job transitions; program consolidation; delivery of social services; coordinating non-contributory and contributory minimum pensions; and reducing differentials in contributions and taxes across occupations. The report’s visuals are really great, see for example the layers graph on access to “protected sources of income” across the distribution (figure 3, p.27). Carioca bonus: Perin and Veras Soares draw lessons from Brazil’s Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos which procures food from small farmers and distributes it as social assistance.
And is universal basic income (UBI) affordable in Brazil as well as in Chile, India, Russia, and South Africa? Enami et al consider three UBI transfers levels and identify scenarios in which the poor are no worse off than under existing social assistance provisions. They found that such “no-harm” condition would require an increase in average tax rate of over 30%, raising non-trivial political and fiscal challenges to adopting a full-fledged UBI in such five countries.
Bonus on UBI: BBC reporter Mary Harper visited a Kenyan village receiving Give Directly universal cash transfers, offering a 30-min podcast describing the change she witnessed five years after her first visit to the site.
Moving to COVID-19 resources, a new study by Kovski et al adds to the literature on the effects of Child Tax Credit (CTC) cash transfers in the US. The paper shows that the CTC reduced anxiety and depression of low income families (see figure 1), and that such effects were not immediate but emerged after three months of payments.
What about cash transfers… where there were none before? Mukherjee et al document the experience of Kinshasa’s STEP-KIN program with digital cash transfers – a scheme that hitherto supported 300,000 people. Setting up the program required partnerships with mobile network operators and financial regulatory reforms, which implied that the first wave of payments occurred a year after the first COVID-19 was detected (see figure 1, p.3). Five key lessons are drawn, including in terms of political commitment, service providers, speed-accuracy tradeoff, the role of “traditional” approaches, and shifting from “data deserts” to “data lakes”.
Another case where technology and information can help delivery: in India, NREGA public works beneficiaries often don’t know when wages are transferred to their account. This was primarily due to practices of withholding cash by local officials. Das et al evaluate a successful intervention in Telangana state where online information on wage transfers – alongside listing of names of the relevant beneficiaries (whose wages have been credited) plus a mobile phone call to let them know about it – increased accountability, reduced trips to banks, and dropped delays.
Moving to the Middle East, a brief by ILO documents income mobility in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In particular, it found that 57% of households who were poor in 2018 were also so in 2013, while the remaining 43% fell into poverty from other income segments. As such, it argues that it is more cost effective “to proactively prevent households from falling into poverty, through inclusive social protection programmes, than to ‘lift’ households out of poverty after they have become ‘poor’”.
News from Europe? Kasy and Lehner have an updated version of their paper (featured in links edition of December 16, 2022) evaluating the recent Marienthal guaranteed job program in Austria. They detected large reductions of long-term unemployment and no negative employment spillovers at municipal level. However, the scheme had no impact on physical health (h/t Mohamed Almenfi).
Assorted materials! An article by Heinzel et al reviewed 7,571 projects on international organizations approved between 1990 and 2020 and concluded that earmarked funding by donors decreases project performance and cost-effectiveness. And UNFPA has a new brief summarizing main take-aways from a workshop in Bogotá (October 2022) on mitigating risks of gender-based violence in cash and voucher assistance.
Final kiosk news: the Liberia Social Safety Nets Project launched a website with news and information, while the upcoming humanitarian studies conference in Dhaka (November 5-7) is calling for papers.
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.