Social protection from an equity perspective – as promoted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – has the potential to address simultaneously many drivers of exclusion and deprivation (UNDP, 2016: 9). Several studies have set out the theoretical causal pathways and possible outcomes (Babajanian & Hagen-Zanker, 2012; UNICEF, 2012). Social protection can reduce social exclusion by providing greater income security and reducing poverty, resilience to falling into (or further into) poverty, greater independence, and more active engagement in the labour market, as well as strengthening the social contract between citizens and government (Kidd, 2017: 212). The impact of social protection on social inclusion can be assessed both by the impact on wellbeing outcomes, and by the impact on the structural drivers of social exclusion and deprivation (‘at the individual level, such as vulnerabilities related to the life course, or at the societal and group level, such as discriminatory norms and practices’ (Babajanian & Hagan-Zanker, 2012: 4)). Social protection interventions can further social inclusion either through ‘instruments that directly aim to reduce discrimination’ and inequities (maternity and paternity leave, anti-discrimination employment policies) or by mainstreaming inclusion in social protection design ‘sensitive to specific vulnerabilities of and impacts on children and their families’ (UNICEF, 2012: 83–84).
Social protection has moved away from a narrow focus on income poverty, to attempting to promote broader positive changes (Molyneux et al., 2016: 15). There are ‘some positive, if as yet inconclusive and mixed results’ (ibid.). There are some studies that suggest social protection programmes have some impact on inclusion, including increasing participation in social networks and strengthening traditional informal social protection (ibid.; Bastagli et al., 2016). Some studies also point to an improvement in beneficiaries’ social status (UNDP, 2016: 20); others that social protection interventions can reduce shame, ‘either directly through promoting self-affirmation or indirectly through poverty reduction or countering stigma’ (Roelen, 2017: 15).
However, there is still little evidence to suggest that social protection has been able to address structural causes of poverty and inequality and therefore be truly transformative. Constraints include the weak articulation between social protection programme activities and wider political and policy spheres, and the limits of citizen activity ‘without robust regulatory mechanisms to enable representation and transparency’ (Molyneux et al., 2015: 16).
The design and implementation of social protection modalities can exacerbate social exclusion. For example, women, young people and migrants who are overrepresented in non-standard employment – both in traditional sectors (e.g. agriculture, construction) and increasingly in emerging sectors (e.g. the digital economy) – are likely to be excluded from social insurance and labour market programmes that tend to only benefit those in formal employment (Behrendt & Nguyen, 2018: 1). Exclusion can also occur for multiple and complex reasons at various stages of a social protection programme, including when beneficiaries are identified and registered, when transfers are paid, and when conditions are enforced (Kidd, 2017: 212). The causes of exclusion could be ‘because of decisions on coverage and budgets, challenges caused by scheme design and implementation, and differing capabilities of people to access schemes and overcome barriers to inclusion’ (ibid.: 213). Moreover, social protection interventions can also ‘induce and reinforce shame’, by using shame explicitly ‘to target policies or promote desirable behaviour’ or by implicitly reinforcing shame through ‘disrespectful engagement and derogatory treatment’ (Roelen, 2017: 15).
Effective public communications campaigns and grievance mechanisms assist people to appeal their exclusion. Grievance mechanisms can also help to promote active citizenship and promote social accountability (Sabates-Wheeler et al., 2017). However, experiences with grievance mechanisms are mixed. Interventions with higher coverage of beneficiaries exclude less; when governments invest less in coverage ‘the more they need to invest in administration if they wish to reduce exclusion’ (Kidd, 2017: 237).
Kidd, S. (2017). Social exclusion and access to social protection schemes. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 9(2), 212–244.
This article examines the barriers that people in developing countries face when attempting to access social protection schemes, with examples of how these have been addressed. The findings are that eligible people are excluded for multiple, complex reasons, including coverage and budget decisions, scheme design and implementation challenges, and people’s differing capabilities to access schemes.
Roelen, K. (2017). Shame, poverty and social protection (IDS Working Paper 489). Brighton: IDS.
This paper provides a conceptual framework for understanding the interactions between shame, poverty and policy, and explores the interactions between these with a focus on social protection and welfare policy. It provides next steps for the consideration of shame in development, including the need for clarity of language, to move beyond the ‘shamee’ and ‘shamer’ dichotomy, and to explore policy options.
Babajanian, B., Hagen-Zanker, J., & Holmes, R. (2014). How do social protection and labour programmes contribute to social inclusion? Evidence from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal. London: ODI.
This paper draws on the findings from four country case studies: life skills education and livelihoods training for young women in Afghanistan; asset transfers in the Char river islands and a food transfer programme in Bangladesh; a health insurance programme in India; and the Child Grant cash transfer in Nepal. All interventions contributed to wellbeing outcomes, to varying degrees, and to strengthening social relations, including social participation and social networks. However, ‘the findings also show that, on many occasions, the interventions have not delivered transformative changes in the lives and livelihoods of excluded households and individuals’ (p. iv).
Khan, S., Combaz, E., & McAslan Fraser, E. (2015). Social exclusion: Topic guide. Revised edition. Birmingham: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.
Molyneux, M., Jones, W. N., & Samuels, F. (2016). Can cash transfer programmes have ‘transformative’ effects?. Journal of Development Studies, 52(8), 1087–1098.
Combaz, E. (2013). Social inclusion in productive safety net programmes (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1005). Birmingham: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.
Babajanian, B., & Hagen-Zanker, J. (2012). Social protection and social exclusion: An analytical framework to assess the links (Background Note). London: ODI.