• A growing number of developing countries are investing in social safety nets — to improve the lives and livelihoods of billions of poor and vulnerable people. Social safety net programs include cash and in-kind transfers targeted to poor and vulnerable households, with the goal of protecting families from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises.

    Yet around 55 percent of the world’s poor or 773 million people with acute needs still lack safety net coverage — especially in lower-income countries and in urban areas.

    Globally, low-income countries face the greatest coverage gap in reaching the poorest people:

    • In low-income and lower-middle-income countries, social safety nets cover only 25 percent of the extreme poor, compared to 64 percent in upper-middle-income countries.
    • In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the global poor live, social safety nets cover just one-tenth and one-fifth of the poorest 20 percent of the population, respectively.
    • Coverage of the poorest in urban areas, where an estimated 863 million people live in precarious settlements, also remains a challenge.

    Based on the World Bank Aspire database, 69 million people are lifted from absolute poverty – defined as those living on less than $1.25 a day – through safety net programs. At the same time, 97 million people are uplifted from relative poverty – defined as people in the bottom twenty percent of the income or consumption distribution – proving that safety nets serve as an important tool in addressing poverty.

    Evidence now shows how safety nets cash transfers not only help nations invest in human capital, but also serve as a source of income for the poor, improving their standard of living. Today, more than 1.9 billion people in some 130 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs.

    Last Updated: Jun 21, 2017

  • The World Bank supports sustainable and affordable safety net programs that protect families from shocks; help ensure that children grow up healthy, well-fed, and stay in school and learn; empower women and girls; and create jobs. Building sustainable and affordable safety nets in each developing country is a key component of the World Bank’s Social Protection and Labor Strategy 2012-2022, which is helping countries move from fragmented programs to affordable social protection systems that enable individuals to manage risk and improve resilience by investing in human capital and improving people’s ability to access jobs.

    The World Bank works with countries to develop country-tailored tools and approaches;  strengthen countries’ capacity to target, integrate, administer, and evaluate social protection programs invest in knowledge, data, and analysis; and provide “on-time” policy advice and continuous technical assistance and capacity-building.

    The World Bank supports a diverse set of safety net interventions, ranging from cash transfers to public works to school feeding programs. In low-income countries, the Rapid Social Response program is instrumental in addressing capacity constraints, developing effective delivery systems and communicating results.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2017

  • Social safety nets have positive and significant impacts on education, health, and food security, but also promote households’ ability to generate income that can lead to positive effects in local economies.

    • To respond to the extreme drought in the Southern Africa region, cash transfers have become the primary response to support the recovery of disaster-affected population in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique.
    • Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program reaches about nine million people poor and chronically food insecure households in the country. The program now includes a gender action plan that supports and benefits women that participate in the program. 
    • In Brazil, the World Bank-supported Bolsa Familia program covered 12 million poor households (about 25% of the population) by providing monthly payments to families that send their children to school, meet vaccination requirements, and utilize health services. The program is also instrumental in protecting and preventing more Brazilians from falling into poverty given the country’s current economic crisis.
    • In the Philippines, where the country’s conditional cash transfer program has reached 4.4 million families, covering 21 percent of the population. The program has successfully kept poor children in school. And for children who are part of the program, it helped reduce stunting by 10 percent.


    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2017


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