Migration and climate change – The role of social protection

Social protection, as a vulnerability response tool, is well-placed to equip climate-vulnerable populations with resources that de-risk livelihoods and smooth consumption. This systematic literature review of 28 studies identifies evidence for how social protection has influenced beneficiaries’ migration decisions, experiences, and outcomes in the context of a changing climate, through cash transfers, public work programs, insurance, and health care. The review reveal three key interlinkages between social protection policies and climate-migration, where social protection is recognized as a policy tool that can (i) ease the financial barriers to migration as a means of de-risking climate change impacts, (ii) address adverse drivers and structural factors that may compel people to engage in maladaptive, distress migration and (iii) support those ‘left at home’ in maintaining their livelihoods when they do not wish to leave. Understanding how social protection can be leveraged to stimulate positive climate-migration outcomes can aid policymakers, development practitioners, local governments, and social protection beneficiaries capitalize the necessary support in circumstances of migration or immobility in the context of adverse climate conditions. Knowledge gaps remain regarding the optimal methods in which social protection can support vulnerable groups and encourage positive outcomes of climate-migration. We expand the knowledge base by making a case for the inclusion of social protection in climate change and human migration debates; highlighting research and policy gaps and missed opportunities; and advocating for further empirical research on interlinkages and documentation of approaches where social protection can support voluntary, planned migration decisions where long-term adaptation is no longer viable.