Social protection systems and gender: A review of the evidence

The negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have motivated an unprecedented level of global advocacy for gender-responsive and gender-transformative social protection systems that buffer individuals from shocks and vulnerabilities. This turn to a systems approach reflects growing recognition that the presence of one or two social protection programmes targeting women does not guarantee that they are protected throughout the course of their lives and over a wide range of contingencies. Relative to the high levels of interest, however, very little empirical evidence exists about what a gender-responsive or transformative social protection system entails in practice. This article departs from existing literature that focuses on the design and impact of discreet social protection instruments, to present a ‘state of the evidence’ on gender and social protection systems. Drawing on the results of a phased scoping review of academic and policy literature spanning various fields, the article charts the defining features of the existing evidence base, summarizes what is known and identifies pathways for future research. In addition to scholarly analysis, the article offers a comprehensive view of the evidence for policymakers, practitioners, movement leaders and funders working on policy problems from a gender perspective.