Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa: a review

The increase in vulnerability can be associated to some more or less common policies in the MENA countries such as protective trade policies and an emphasis on government employment and public expenditures as means of social protection. However, the Region has been adversely affected by other events, too. Declining oil prices, though not totally unanticipated, have nevertheless imperiled the economies depending on it - this covariant type of shock is quite characteristic of the Region. 

Reducing vulnerability is not synonymous to poverty reduction and goes beyond policies that endeavor to bring the poor to an acceptable level of minimum consumption. It is broader in that it includes the reduction of the risk for the non-poor of falling below the poverty line and the creation of opportunities that would lead to the improvement of living conditions of the poor and the non-poor. 

Following this logic, this paper provides first the regional context from the late 1970s to the 1990s, the extent to which vulnerability has increased and how households tried to cope with crises and manage risk (Section 1). Section 2 assesses the role of broader social policies in reducing vulnerability (such as education, health, infrastructure, water, population policies and so on) before it focuses on social protection programs per se (Section 3). With respect to the latter, it explores the characteristics and impact of various key programs and makes recommendations to improve their design and scope in order to protect the poor while creating a sustainable social protection system.