Financing Gender-Responsive Social Protection Systems


Social protection is not only a vital instrument for addressing economic risks at scale, but also social exclusion, discrimination, and the realization of children’s rights, including but not limited to gender equality. Despite strides in expanding social protection benefits globally, women still experience significantly lower social protection coverage than men with 26.3 percent of working-age women covered by a pension scheme globally compared to 38.7 per cent of working-age men. More than half of global mothers are deprived of maternity benefits, and only a quarter of all children have access to any form of child or family benefits. Women, children, and people living with disabilities sustained some of the greatest setbacks caused by COVID-19 to education, jobs, and health, including a rapidly rising unpaid care burden, yet many social protection programmes fell short of being inclusive and gender-responsive. Less than one in five global social protection measures during the COVID-19 pandemic addressed gender inequalities; this issue is compounded for caregivers of children with disabilities, the majority of whom are single mothers who face more unpaid care responsibilities than the average parent1. The gap is great, yet the potential is even greater.  

Funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented jointly by the International Labour Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and the Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors (GCSPF), the Social Protection and Public Finance Management Programme (SP&PFM Programme)’s approach is to support evidence generation based on sex-disaggregated data and provide technical advice to ensure national social protection programmes can play a key role in responding to the specific needs of boys and girls, men and women, while reversing the gender imbalances through social protection laws and programmes, including linkages to complementary social and employment services and access to information. The Programme’s interventions are guided by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979, and the Recommendation on Social Protection Floors, 2012. 

The Programme also focuses on breaking the cycle of gender inequalities that trap women in informal and low-paid jobs without adequate social protection to prevent or overcome poverty. This requires removing barriers to accessing decent work and social protection schemes. Rather than promoting improvements in gender equality regarding access to social protection in isolation, the Programme considers social protection policies in the context of poverty reduction, employment, formalisation, care, migration, and other macroeconomic policies. Therefore, the SP&PFM Programme supports countries to ensure gender-responsiveness and transformative results throughout all phases of the social protection delivery process: outreach and communication, registration and payments, benefits design, etc. The Programme also supports assessments of the gender impact of budget shortfalls for social protection, the development of gender-sensitive social protection budgeting, including through sector coordination, and participatory gender audits. Finally, it supports partner countries in designing and implementing gender-responsive social protection programmes. 

As part of its knowledge exchange and communications initiative, the SP&PFM Programme is organizing a series of webinars to learn from country experiences and contribute to the international debate on innovative solutions to increase financing and improve PFM for strengthening national social protection systems to achieve universal coverage for all. 



Dörte Bosse, Head of Sector for horizontal coordination, social protection and disabilities, European Union Directorate-General for International Partnerships 

Lauren Whitehead, Social Protection and Gender Lead, UNICEF NYHQ 

Shana Fabienne Hoehler, Technical Officer ILO 

Allen Nakalo, Social Policy Officer UNICEF


Moderator: Uzziel Twagilimana, Deputy Director in charge of Programs, WSM


1Gender-responsive social protection post-COVID-19 (SPIAC-B Gender Working Group, Science Magazine, 2022) 

2Mainstreaming gender into social protection strategies and programmes (UNICEF Innocenti and UN Women, 2021)  


This was the fourth webinar of the Improving Synergies between Social Protection and Public Finance Management series, organised by the Social Protection and Public Finance Management Programme (SP&PFM Programme).