publication
The State of Social Safety Nets 2014

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Highlights
  • More than 1 billion people in 146 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs, yet 870 million of the world’s poorest people remain uncovered, according to World Bank report.
  • In low-income countries, where 47 percent of the population is extremely poor, social safety nets cover less than 10 percent of the population.
  • The report notes that the expansion of social safety net programs, particularly in the form of cash transfers, is particularly evident in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Social safety nets provide regular and predictable transfers in cash or in-kind to poor and vulnerable people. They are critical for reducing poverty, boosting inclusive growth and shared prosperity, reducing food insecurity and malnutrition, increasing demand for education and health services, stimulating local economies and for helping households to better manage risks and cope with shocks.

Social safety nets are not just about assistance – they are an important ingredient for building and strengthening social contracts between states and their citizens.

The State of Social Safety Nets 2014 aims to provide key information on the state of social safety nets in developing and emerging countries. Using data from 146 countries, including detailed household survey data from 69 countries in the World Bank Atlas of Social Protection: Indicators of Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE) database, the report provides new estimates on the coverage of social safety net programs, their features, level of government spending, and recent empirical evidence. It also reviews important policy and practical developments and highlights emerging innovations.


" This new data shows that, if safety nets are done right, it is possible to close the gap on coverage and reach all of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty across the world "

Arup Banerji

Director for Social Protection and Labor, World Bank

The report finds that more than 1 billion people in 146 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs, yet 870 million of the world’s poorest people remain uncovered. 

In terms of global social safety net coverage, the report shows that countries at lower levels of income face the greatest gaps in reaching the poorest people:  

  • In low-income countries, where 47 percent of the population is extremely poor, social safety nets cover less than 10 percent of the population.
  • In lower-middle income countries, social safety nets reach about one-quarter of the extreme poor, but the remaining half a billion of the poorest people remain uncovered.
  • The situation is best in upper-middle income countries, where about 45 percent of the extreme poor are covered by social safety nets.

The report notes that the expansion of social safety net programs, particularly in the form of cash transfers, is particularly evident in Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, 37 African countries currently have unconditional cash transfer programs, almost double the number four years ago. Globally, the number of countries with a conditional cash transfer program increased from 27 countries in 2008 to 52 in 2013. Similar trends are notable for other types of safety net programs such as public works. 

The report is the first in a series of studies that will monitor and report on the growth and coverage of social safety nets in the developing world, highlight promising innovations, and review important policy and practical developments in this area.