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In a world filled with risk and potential, social protection and labor systems help people and families find jobs, improve productivity, cope with shocks, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population. The World Bank supports social protection and labor programs in developing countries as a central part of its mission to reduce poverty through sustainable and inclusive growth.

Social protection programs comprise of both social assistance (such as cash transfers, school feeding, targeted food assistance and subsidies) and social insurance (such as old-age, survivorship, disability pensions, and unemployment insurance). They can have a direct, positive impact on poor families by building human capital through better health, more schooling, and greater skills.

Jobs, too, are critical for reducing poverty and promoting prosperity. All countries, regardless of income, face challenges creating and sustaining adequate job opportunities for their citizens

In 2016, the world will begin the pursuit of an ambitious new development agenda, under the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Social protection systems, figure prominently among the SDGs. Goal 1.3 calls for the implementation of “nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and vulnerable”. Universal coverage and access to social protection are central to ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the World Bank’s twin goals by 2030

Annual lending for social protection and labor has remained steady, averaging $1.8 billion from 2012 until 2014.  The World Bank is also scaling up social safety nets, with $32 million of financing toward the three hardest hit Ebola-affected countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2015

The World Bank’s 10 year social protection and labor strategy (2012-22) lays out ways to deepen World Bank involvement, capacity, knowledge, and impact in social protection and labor.

The overarching goals of the strategy are to help improve resilience, equity, and opportunity for people in both low and middle-income countries.

The strategic direction is to help developing countries move from fragmented approaches to more harmonized systems for social protection and labor. This new strategy addresses gaps in the current practice by helping make social protection and labor more responsive, more productive, and more inclusive of excluded regions and groups

The engagement principles for working with clients are country-tailored and evidence-based in operations and knowledge work, and collaborative across a range of sectors and actors.

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2015

World Bank support for social protection and labor programs has achieved the following results:

  • Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program reaches about 7.6 million chronically food-insecure people or 8% of Ethiopia’s population, and is set to cover 8.3 million people by 2015. In response to the financial crisis, the program supported more than 1.2 million new households.
  • 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. This program has been instrumental in reducing poverty and inequality.
  • A job training program in Chile helped some 145,000 individuals with incomplete formal schooling, 92,000 of whom were able to finish their basic or secondary education.
  • The World Report on Disability, the first ever of its kind, has significantly contributed to the international discourse on disability and development.
  • The World Bank has led efforts to reform pay-as-you-go defined pension benefit schemes. The World  Bank has also provided capacity building and knowledge transfer on improving old-age income security to more than 100 countries.


Last Updated: Sep 09, 2015

In June 2015, the World Bank and the International Labor Organization endorsed the goal of universal access to social protection –including safety nets— by 2030.

The World Bank is part of the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE). S4YE is a global coalition of civil society actors, government officials, foundations, private sector entities, international organizations, and young people that seeks to fill the gap in youth employment. The initiative was launched in October 2014.

The World Bank receives support from the Russian Federation, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Sweden, and currently assists 80 activities worldwide through the Rapid Social Response (RSR) program. It provides catalytic resources in small amounts to help low-income countries build social protection and labor systems, so that they are prepared for future crises.

In 2012, the World Bank launched the Atlas of Social Protection with Indicators on Resilience and Equity (ASPIRE) as the first global compilation of data from household surveys documenting social protection. It provides a worldwide snapshot of social protection coverage, targeting, and impact on well-being by identifying countries’ social protection programs, grouping them into categories, harmonizing core indicators, and detailing people’s well-being. The World Bank also offers cross-country data for mandatory pension systems around the world.

In collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation, the Inter-American development Bank, Youth Employment Network, and the International Labor Organization(ILO), the World  Bank has also developed a Youth Employment Inventory that provides comparative information on more than 500 youth employment programs in around 90 countries.

Last Updated: Sep 09, 2015