Social Protection Digest
Issue #4 — June 2024

The Social Protection Digest is a quarterly compilation featuring practitioner guides, evidence-based studies, and policy and conceptual discussions. It showcases recent publications available on the socialprotection.org platform covering various topics, all meticulously curated and 'digested' to you by our team. We hope to provide practitioners, policymakers and researchers with easily digestible insights, guidance, and evidence from the field of social protection.

In this issue, we present the team's handpicked selections from a wealth of content submitted to the platform between March and May 2024.


Find here the sections of this Digest and the resources that inspired this edition

1. Practitioner's Guide
  • Rethinking Social Insurance for Self-Employed and Gig Workers | World Bank Group
  • Implementation Guide - Good Practices for Ensuring Data Protection and Privacy in Social Protection Systems | B.Wagners et al.
  • Researching Capacities to Sustain Social Protection in Protracted Crisis: Part 1 - The Capacity Cube | R. Slater
  • Social Protection and Labor Market Policies for the Informally Employed: A Review of Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries | Y. Ghorpade et al.
  • Cash versus Kind: Benchmarking a Child Nutrition Program against Unconditional Cash Transfers in Rwanda | C. McIntosh and A. Zeitlin
  • The Potential of Universal Basic Income Schemes to Mitigate Shocks | E. Nichelatti et al.
  • The Impact of Shock-Responsive Social Cash Transfers: Evidence from an Aggregate Shock in Kenya | C. Strupat et al.
  • Leveraging Social Protection to Support Women’s and Girls’ Climate Resilience in Low- and Middle-Income Countries | S. Roy et al.
  • Can Cash Transfers Really Be Transformative? A Literature Review of the Sustainability of Their Impacts | F. Grisolia
  • Evolution and Innovation of Social Insurance Policies for New Forms of Employment | H. Zhang
1. Practitioners' Guide
This section features guidance notes and tools offering practical advice, frameworks and principles for implementing effective social protection programmes and systems.
Rethinking Social Insurance for Self-Employed and Gig Workers | World Bank Group

In many countries, social insurance (SI) schemes often exclude gig and self-employed workers. These workers face barriers such as liquidity constraints, income volatility, the need to self-register and pay contributions, and being part of the ‘missing middle’ category, making SI coverage difficult to achieve. To broaden and diversify the client base, SI products must align with customer needs. Based on this premise, the World Bank note presents six key design insights for rethinking SI and developing new products tailored for self-employed, low-income, and gig workers (see Figure 1).
  1. Implement automatic, small, and flexible payments to improve financial management; for instance, income-based deductions motivate contributions.
  2. Offer monetary and non-monetary incentives, such as short-term withdrawals and benefits like funeral and life insurance, to attract participation.
  3. Leverage ID systems, like Aadhaar in India and Rwanda's national ID cards, to simplify registration.
  4. Employ digital technologies like mobile money to simplify processes, cut costs, and make saving more accessible.
  5. Partner with gig platforms to identify self-employed workers, using work pattern and earnings data, integrating them into national databases for better social protection access.
  6. Use behavioural nudges, like timely messages, to help self-employed workers overcome procrastination when choosing social insurance options.
Overall, the note concludes that integrating these design considerations could help reduce the SI coverage gap.
Figure 1 Key design insight for a new generation of social insurance products
Implementation Guide – Good Practices for Ensuring Data Protection and Privacy in Social Protection Systems | B. Wagner et al.

The rights to privacy and to social protection are fundamental, but navigating data protection and privacy within social protection systems can be complex. This guide, commissioned by GIZ and supported by SPIAC-B, offers practical insights on how social protection systems can adapt to and comply with specific legal contexts of data protection and privacy standards.

Data protection and privacy are addressed at various governance levels, often involving frameworks that include standards, like the Data Protection and Privacy Principles (see Figure 2). Data protection and privacy standards for social protection programmes exist at three levels: national data protection laws, organisational policies, and data management protocols for each programme. Additionally, data protection and privacy are subject to international and regional frameworks that protect personal data across borders.

To ensure social protection digital technology complies with applicable data protection and privacy laws, this guide offers five step-by-step recommendations to practitioners and policymakers when contracting providers of digital technology: 1) Define business needs from a privacy perspective, not adjusted to fit available technologies; 2) Conduct a comprehensive due diligence assessment of the technology providers; 3) Make informed contracting decisions based on risk assessments; 4) Reflect the required standards in a binding legal agreement; and lastly, 5) Monitor the technology providers’ compliance with the agreement.
Figure 2 Data protection principles
Researching Capacities to Sustain Social Protection in Protracted Crises: Part 1 - The Capacity Cube | R. Slater

Little is known about how existing national social protection programmes and systems can sustain delivery in situations of climate and/or conflict crisis. To address this knowledge gap, this IDS research briefing introduces the Capacity Cube framework (see Figure 3), a new tool for addressing capacity deficits in protracted crisis situations.

The Capacity Cube has three dimensions. The first dimension distinguishes between individual (staff), organisational (processes and systems), and institutional capacity (values and norms guiding actions). The second dimension is temporal, differentiating between building, applying, and maintaining capacity. The third dimension breaks down capacity into: a) competency, what a person can do in a controlled environment; b) capability, what a person can do in their daily environment; and c) performance, what a person actually does in their daily environment.

The Capacity Cube framework helps understand capacity deficits, offering several advantages: 1) It shifts focus from individual skills to addressing the roots of capability and performance deficits; 2) It explores how gender and social norms affect capacities, investigating if differences in men's and women's capabilities stem from factors like domestic duties, and others; and 3) It provides a detailed assessment of whether staff understand something theoretically, can apply it practically, and can actually implement it.
Figure 3 The Capacity Cube
2. Evidence
This section highlights emerging evidence on social protection programmes and systems, unveiling innovative findings and shedding light on unexplored areas.
Social Protection and Labor Market Policies for the Informally Employed: A Review of Evidence from Low- and Middle-Income Countries | Y. Ghorpade et al.

Around 60% of all workers globally are in the informal economy. Within this context, social protection plays a crucial role in safeguarding informal workers, enhancing worker productivity, and facilitating the transition from informal to formal employment. Reviewing empirical evidence from low- and middle-income countries, Ghorpade et al. analyse the effects of social protection programmes on the formalisation, protection, and productivity of informal workers.

The authors find that workforce formalisation is best achieved through macroeconomic and firm-level policies (e.g. economic growth, private sector development policies, finance for SMEs) but may not result in workforce protection or enhanced worker productivity. Labour market policies like training and job search assistance, apart from wage subsidies and hiring quotas, do not have a clear impact on any of the three outcomes. On the other hand, social protection, especially social insurance programmes, can effectively address all three outcomes (See Figures 4-6 for an overview of effective interventions across the three outcomes).

The authors suggest that policy efforts should focus on extending protection and enhancing the productivity of workers in informal employment, rather than formalising all workers. They believe there are limits to regulatory efforts and overemphasis on formalisation can push workers into the shadow economy, leading to more precarious conditions.
Figure 4 Formalisation
Figure 5 Protection
Figure 6 Productivity
Cash versus Kind: Benchmarking a Child Nutrition Program against Unconditional Cash Transfers in Rwanda | C. McIntosh and A. Zeitlin

Understanding the cost-effectiveness of cash transfers versus in-kind and bundled interventions is crucial for effective resource allocation by governments and aid agencies. In this study, McIntosh and Zeitlin conduct a cluster-randomised trial across 248 Rwandan villages, comparing the Gikuriro child nutrition programme with an unconditional cash transfer (UCT) of equal cost. They measure the impact of both programmes on five primary outcomes: household consumption, household dietary diversity, child and maternal anaemia, child growth, and household non-land net wealth. Additionally, they examine secondary outcomes like borrowing, savings, fertility, health knowledge, and household assets, and assesses trade-offs across different outcomes, expenditure per beneficiary, and subpopulations.

While neither the in-kind program nor the $124 cash transfer improved core child outcomes within a year, the UCT significantly increased consumption, debt repayment, and asset investments, whereas the Gikuriro programme increased savings. Findings indicate that achieving significant impacts on child nutrition and growth within a year costs more than $140 per household, irrespective of the intervention type. However, a larger cash transfer amount of $517 showed substantial improvements in consumption, investment, dietary diversity, and modest enhancements in child growth.

The study suggests that policymakers must consider the trade-offs between different outcomes, emphasising the need to justify interventions based on long-term social welfare rather than selecting a single preferred approach.
The Potential of Universal Basic Income Schemes to Mitigate Shocks | E. Nichelatti et al.

The potential of universal basic income (UBI) to reduce poverty and inequality has attracted significant interest from policymakers and researchers. This UNU-WIDER working paper examines four hypothetical UBI schemes of varying generosity levels in Uganda and Zambia, using tax-benefit microsimulation models based on representative household survey data. It compares poverty and inequality under these UBI schemes during normal times and crisis periods (with and without COVID-19 shocks) against existing systems in each country.

In Zambia, where social protection benefits are extensive, the least generous UBI increases poverty and inequality compared to current benefits. In Uganda, where social protection coverage is minimal, all UBI scenarios reduce poverty and inequality. More generous UBI schemes lead to greater poverty reduction in both countries but require substantial government expenditure, with the most generous UBI needing 30% of GDP in Uganda and 20% in Zambia.

The study concludes that while UBI schemes provide a stable income floor, especially during crises, well-targeted programmes may better reduce poverty and inequality, as seen in Zambia. It also addresses UBI's feasibility challenges, including financial sustainability, political acceptability, and administrative implementation. The findings contribute to the broader debate on UBI's effectiveness in low-income countries, offering insights relevant to other sub-Saharan African nations with similar social protection and tax-benefit systems.
The Impact of Shock-Responsive Social Cash Transfers: Evidence from an Aggregate Shock in Kenya | C. Strupat et al.

Aggregate shocks like pandemics, conflict, and climate disasters present challenges, especially for vulnerable households. Strupat et al. use a difference-in-differences approach and primary, in-person surveys to analyse how Kenya's National Safety Net Programme (NSNP) affected household welfare and risk-coping measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a specific focus on highly vulnerable informal sector households.

The findings reveal that, during the pandemic, households receiving the cash transfer were less likely to experience income loss, poverty, and food scarcity, helping them maintain income and consumption levels of necessities, including food. The programme also reduced the likelihood of families engaging in costly risk-coping strategies, such as selling productive assets.

The authors highlight the importance of investing in adaptive and shock-responsive social cash transfers and indicate three key features of such programmes: 1) A registry of hard-to-target informal sector households readily available; 2) Pre-development delivery mechanisms; and 3) Administrative financing in place to pool domestic and international funds for vertical and horizontal expansion.
3. Policy and Theory
This section focuses on policy and conceptual discussions shaping the theoretical underpinnings of social protection strategies.
Leveraging Social Protection to Support Women’s and Girls’ Climate Resilience in Low- and Middle-Income Countries | S. Roy et al.

Women and girls bear a disproportionate impact from climate change, facing heightened exposure and vulnerability due to gender norms, health disparities, and limited opportunities. They encounter barriers such as resource constraints and lack of climate information, which restrict their adaptive capacities. In this article, Roy et al. explore how social assistance (SA) can address these challenges (see Figure 7) and propose a framework to enhance women and girls' responses to climate hazards.

The authors identify three pathways through which SA can bolster women and girls' climate resilience: 1) addressing household-level constraints, reflecting SA’s main objective of providing resources to poor households; 2) addressing individual-level constraints, particularly empowering women to control household resources, and increasing their knowledge and access to services and networks; and 3) addressing community-level constraints through infrastructure development, civic engagement, amplifying women and girls’ voice, and challenging gender norms. Pathways 2 and 3 are dependent on intentional programme design features, such as targeting women specifically and linking them to relevant services.

Lastly, the authors offer recommendations on key design features of SA transfers (targeting, size and frequency, and modality) as well as other features, including complementary components and linkages, to more effective incorporate gender and climate considerations.
Figure 7 How SA can affect WGs’ exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to climate hazards, thus shaping their responses and well-being outcomes
Can Cash Transfers Really Be Transformative? A Literature Review of the Sustainability of Their Impacts | F. Grisolia

Existing evidence extensively documents the effects of cash transfers (CTs) on various outcomes, also extending beyond monetary poverty alleviation. However, little is still known about the sustainability of these impacts. In this discussion paper, Grisolia reviews 77 studies to assess the persistence of CT impacts – covering conditional, unconditional, and graduation transfers – across indicators like education, health, nutrition, employment, poverty, and more.

The analysis reveals that CTs generate sustained and transformative effects on indicators such as school attainment, text scores, incomes, labour supply, food security, and assets. However, positive impacts on health status, food security, and women’s decision-making power tend to diminish after the medium run (See figure 7 for an overview of results).

These findings have practical implications for policymaking, research and evaluation of social protection programmes. Policymakers should design CTs to maximise long-lasting effects on beneficiaries. Researchers should explore how CTs can achieve lasting advantages and focus on analysing which design features (e.g. conditionality, targeting, and complementary support) drive positive outcomes. Lastly, M&E professionals should extend evaluation timeframes (at least 2 years post-programme) to better understand the sustainability of CT effects.
Figure 8 Overall findings, by outcome domain and its indicators
Evolution and Innovation of Social Insurance Policies for New Forms of Employment | H. Zhang

Globalisation and the advancement of new technologies create opportunities for alternative forms of employment such as remote work, freelancing, and gig work, presenting challenges to traditional social insurance (SI) systems. This study, Zhang investigates the evolution and innovation of SI policies designed for new forms of employment.

Traditional SI systems have historically catered to stable employment structures. To address this, the article suggests that policymakers should consider the specific requirements and characteristics of these new employment types. Key recommendations include expanding SI coverage, increasing flexibility, customising SI benefits, and innovating SI policies. One significant proposal is the introduction of cross-platform SI systems, enabling workers to participate across multiple platforms while accessing unified social security benefits.

The author emphasises the importance of continuous evolution and innovation in SI policies. Governments and stakeholders should actively monitor labour market changes and respond to workers’ evolving needs and demands. These measures are crucial for promoting social inclusivity and fairness and promote adequate coverage and protection to workers traditionally outside the scope of conventional SI systems.
4. See more
Curious to explore further? Click here to access the complete set of resources curated by the socialprotection.org team.
For more curated suggestions on reading materials and social protection news, check out:
  • The Weekly Social Protection Links by Ugo Gentilini. A new issue of this newsletter is released every Friday, featuring a curated selection and discussion of social protection resources, ranging from scholarly articles to podcasts.
  • The STAAR Evidence Digest is a monthly collection of articles compiled by the Technical Leadership Team at the STAAR Facility, related to social protection in crisis contexts and gender-responsive social protection.
This issue of the Social Protection Digest was written by Luiza Gewehr (Junior Knowledge Management Consultant), Gabriel Mazaro (Knowledge Management Associate), and Paulo Sodré (Knowledge Management Associate) and reviewed by Roberta Brito (Knowledge Management Coordinator) and João Pedro Bregolin Dytz (Research Associate).

Your questions and suggestions are very welcome: [email protected]
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