Good Intentions, Better Outcomes: Shifting the Debate About Social Protection and Informality

The introduction of social protections for individuals engaged in paid employment frequently comes up against arguments that such measures would have an adverse impact on employment, reduce access to formal jobs, and result in greater informality. The argument is that, while well intentioned, such policies distort labor markets and generate significant economic costs that either leave some workers worse off than they would have been in the absence of such protection, or the interventions become a drag on overall economic performance, encumbering the process of development. In what follows we critically evaluate such arguments and provide responses to the claim that social protections lead to higher informality. We also consider the challenges involved in providing social protection to different types of workers, including not only those employed by others but specifically the self-employed and unpaid workers.