Social registries: a short history of abject failure

This paper​, written in partnership with Act Church of Sweden, examines the utility of the so-called “social registry” – a database that determines people’s eligibility for welfare programs – within social protection. Our analysis illustrates that it is minimal – unless the aim is to undertake inaccurate poverty targeting. Unfortunately, the use of these registries has extended across the Global South, with their core aim being to select beneficiary households for poverty-targeted social programmes. They go against the whole notion of modern, lifecycle social security schemes based on individual entitlements, as these targeting databases are restricted to low-cost national social protection systems that resemble those of the poor relief of the 19th Century Europe.