Social Safety Nets Primer

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This series is intended to provide a practical resource for those engaged in the design and implementation of safety net programs around the world. Readers will find information on good practices for a variety of types of interventions, country contexts, themes and target groups, as well as current thinking on the role of social safety nets in the broader development agenda.

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High Labour Intensive (HIMO) Public Works in Madagascar : Issues and Policy Options

2008-12, Milazzo, Anna Maria

High labor intensive (HIMO) public work programs have been very popular in recent years in Madagascar. They have been one of the most common safety net program used to address poverty and vulnerability. The objective of these programs has been to provide income support to the poor in critical times, e.g. after natural disasters, or to respond to seasonal shortfalls in employment during the agricultural slack period (soudure), and to improve much needed local infrastructures. The Government has recently increased its commitment to assisting poor households to prevent, mitigate and cope with the consequences of these shocks. The poverty reduction strategy paper, presented by the Government in 2003, calls for a national strategy for social protection to address risks and vulnerabilities as a central challenge to reduce poverty and improve human capital in Madagascar. To supplement effective implementation of policies in the area of social protection, the Government developed a National Risk Management and Social Protection Strategy (NRMSPS) in 2007.

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Toolkit for Programming Assistance to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Sub-Saharan Africa

2005-01, Tovo, Maurizia, Prywes, Menahem, Kielland, Anne, Gibbons, Catherine, Saito, Junko

Orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) are among the most vulnerable population groups in Africa. Without support and protection, they are exposed to the risk of abusive labor, lack of education, malnutrition, disease, and death. Estimates indicate that 20 percent of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are OVC. They constitute such a large group that, to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), OVC concerns need to be mainstreamed into relevant World Bank projects and programs. This brief note refers to the toolkit designed as a web-based product to make it a widely accessible, live document. It draws on a large array of experiences and material from international agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), hence helping to disseminate lessons - good and bad - learnt in a variety of settings. The Toolkit is organized in four parts and twenty-four sections.

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Targeted Transfers in Poor Countries : Revisiting Trade-Offs and Policy Options

2003-01, Whitehead, Tim

Social safety nets are often seen as short-term palliatives or, worse, wastes of scarce money in developing economies. Critics point to leakages of benefits to non-targeted groups (i.e., the non-poor) or the policies' potential adverse effects on the incentives to work or save. Even supporters of social safety nets often view their benefits solely in terms of equity. These policies are rarely seen as an integral part of a strategy for fostering economic growth and poverty reduction. Indeed, many observers have argued that there are significant trade-offs between spending public money on such programs and long-term poverty reduction. Theory and evidence suggest that there may be scope for policies to alleviate current poverty and uninsured risk, and at the same time, to enhance economic efficiency. There have been a number of successful transfer schemes. However, in drawing implications for future policies, targeted transfers may not dominate other options such as fostering new institutions for credit provision, better enforcement of property rights, and supply-side interventions in schooling and healthcare. Theory and evidence suggest that the trade-offs between traditional safety net goals and efficiency have probably been exaggerated. A new approach to social safety nets would recognize their potential to enhance growth and emphasize careful design and evaluation to ensure that that potential is realized.

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Reaching out to Africa’s Orphans A Framework for Public Action

2005-01, World Bank

Conflicts and the HIV-AIDS pandemic are generating a major humanitarian crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa: the number of children who have lost one or both parents is expected to rise to 35 million by 2010. Even prior to the death of parents, children are vulnerable as prolonged sickness of a parent robs them of their childhood, often forcing them to become breadwinners. The risk of orphanhood is no longer a random shock affecting a few families; it is a systemic shock affecting whole communities and large segments of the population.

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Costs of Projects for Orphans and Other Vulnerable Children : Case Studies in Eritrea and Benin

2004-01, Prywes, Menahem

Many developing countries are witnessing the emergence of a large and growing number of orphans, street children, and children in the worst forms of labor. In particular, conflict and HIV-AIDS have produced a large and growing cohort of orphans in Africa. Low cost solutions are critical if large numbers of orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC) are to be reached, yet there is very little information available on the actual costs of delivering services that assist them. This study estimates the costs of interventions in Benin and Eritrea, in order to determine which sorts of projects are most suitable for scaling up, given limited financial resources. The study measures the average annual economic costs of the project, while the economic analysis of costs used in the study includes depreciation, but also values the opportunity cost of the money tied up in the capital good. A key finding is that institutional solutions are costly compared to family based solutions.

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What Role for Safety Net Transfers in Very Low Income Countries?

2003-01, Weigand, Christine

In countries where large parts of the population live in absolute poverty, the need for social safety nets may be greatest, but the capacity to fund and administer them can be severely constrained. What role can social safety net programs play in very low income countries (VLICs)? Three major challenges must be faced when deciding what programs would be feasible in a VLIC: Availability of information; Administrative capacity; and, Affordability. Some special considerations of certain types of interventions apply in the specific context of VLICs: Cash transfers; Food and nutrition programs; and, Agricultural inputs. Given the need to strike a balance between investments for growth and transfers - both compete for scarce public resources - it may be helpful to follow these steps when deciding on the type and scope of social safety net programs: Re-examine the main constraints to growth and the role of public investment policy; Conduct a vulnerability assessment and identify the main risks confronting poor people; and, Identify policy interventions that have a potential both for reducing vulnerability and for enhancing growth prospects.

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Aging and Poverty in Africa and the Role of Social Pensions

2005-01, Subbarao, Kalanidhi

In many low income African countries, three factors are placing an undue burden on the elderly: 1) the burden on the elderly has enormously increased with the increase in mortality of prime age adults due to the HIV-AIDS pandemic and regional conflicts; 2) the traditional safety net of the extended family has become ineffective and unreliable for the elderly; and, 3) in a few countries, the elderly are called upon to shoulder the responsibility of the family as they became the principal breadwinners, and caregivers for young children. While a number of studies have examined the welfare consequences of these developments on children, few studies have systematically analyzed the poverty situation among the elderly (relative to other groups) in low income countries in Africa, and the role of social pensions. This study aims to fill this gap. The findings show much heterogeneity across countries with respect to the proportion of the elderly population, the living arrangements, and the composition of households, and household headship. The analysis shows that the poverty situation, and especially the poverty gap ratio, for the household types the "elderly only", the "elderly with children" and the "elderly-headed households" is much higher than the average in several countries, and the differences are statistically significant. The analysis further shows that the fiscal cost of providing a universal non-contributory social pension to all of the elderly will be quite high - 2 percent to 3 percent of GDP, a level comparable to, or even higher, than the levels of total public spending on health care in some countries. While categorical targeting of a pension for the above groups yields the maximum poverty reduction impacts, and is also fiscally sustainable even in low income countries, its operational feasibility is considered to be weak. The study concludes that the case for a universal approach is weak. The best option appears to be to target the pension only to the poor among the elderly, keeping the benefit level low. The study underscores the need for more country-specific work to explore the feasibility of the recommended option in diverse country settings.

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Incentives and the Role of Institutions in the Provision of Social Safety Nets

2003-01, Weigand, Christine

The institutional environment can determine the effectiveness and efficiency of social safety net programs. An otherwise perfectly designed program may fail if it does not take into account the role of the different institutional actors, and the incentives they face in the implementation and delivery of the program. Thus, incentive structures-between sponsors (i.e., governments) and providers, and between providers and their clients-play an important role in determining the success of a social safety net program. The biggest challenges in countries with fully developed institutions tend to be: 1. Optimizing program mix: With many and very sophisticated programs, it is crucial to determine the 'right' program mix and reduce overlap and conflicts between social programs. Regular monitoring and evaluation play a central role in achieving this. 2. Deciding on the degree of devolution: Local authorities can be better informed and more accountable to their local constituencies. Nevertheless, the devolution of certain policy decisions not only requires a certain level of capacity at the local level, but must also be based on an explicit, clearly defined contract between the central and local governments.

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Targeting Methods for Transfers

2003-01, Grosh, Margaret, Hoddinott, John

Of the commonly used methods for directing transfers to the poor, there is little consensus about which is best. Policymakers need to know how effective different targeting mechanisms are, how the effectiveness differs by method and type of program, and the implications. Targeting success can be partially captured by one outcome indicator, the share of benefits going to the bottom 40 per cent of the population. For example, if a program delivers 60 per cent of its benefits to this group, the outcome indicator is (60 divided by 40 =) 1.5. The higher the indicator - i.e., the greater the percentage of benefits going to the poor relative to their population share - the more progressive is the targeting. The authors calculate their indicator for 85 of the programs in the database. The full study provides information on the use of targeting techniques, summary statistics on comparative program performance, and regression analysis to examine the correlations between methods and outcomes. The study drew broad conclusions, subject to the limitations described beforehand, suggesting that "Targeting can work, but it doesn't always. There is no clearly preferred method for all types of programs, or all country contexts. A weak ranking of outcomes achieved by different mechanisms was possible. And, implementation matters tremendously to outcomes". Targeting performance improved with country income levels, the extent to which governments are held accountable for their actions, and the degree of inequality.