In a world filled with risk and potential, social protection and labor systems help individuals and families especially the poor and vulnerable cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population. The World Bank Group supports universal access to social protection, and is central to its goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Universal social protection coverage includes: providing social assistance through cash transfers to those who need them, especially children; benefits and support for people of working age in case of maternity, disability, work injury or for those without jobs; and pension coverage for the elderly. Assistance is provided through social insurance, tax-funded social benefits, social assistance services, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security.

Social protection systems, figure prominently in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (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”.

Social protection systems that are well-designed and implemented can powerfully shape countries, enhance human capital and productivity, reduce inequalities, build resilience and end inter-generational cycle of poverty. Well-designed social protection and labor programs are cost-effective, costing countries only about 1.0–1.5 percent of GDP.

The World Bank Group’s annual lending on social protection programs in fiscal year 2016 reached $3.6 billion with $2.5 billion lending in IDA countries, targeting the world’s poorest. These resources support social safety net programs, including cash transfers, public works, and school feeding programs.

Jobs, too, are critical in reducing poverty and promoting prosperity. All countries, regardless of income, face challenges creating and sustaining adequate job opportunities for their citizens. The World Bank Group is ensuring that individuals are equipped and trained with the right skills for the labor market.

The World Bank Group also provided budget support to help governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone cope with economic impact of the Ebola outbreak, scaling up social safety net programs for beneficiaries. 

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2016

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

The strategy calls for a systematic approach that addresses fragmentation and duplication in programs, helping to create financing, governance and solutions tailored to countries’ context.

The strategy takes into account the importance of having well-functioning social safety nets, proven to reduce poverty and inequality, promote access to health and education among poor children, and empower women; and sustainable social insurance programs that help cushion the impact of crises on households. In addition, the strategy promotes effective policies for productive employment which help people gain access to labor markets and accumulate skills, both during recovery from economic crisis and in normal times.

Finally, the strategy ensures that harnessing knowledge underpins the World Bank Group’s work on social protection by generating evidence and lessons to inform effective policies; promoting South-South knowledge exchange, and providing global leadership in research, analysis and data management.

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.

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2016

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

  • 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. 
  • A safety net program in Chad promotes nutrition, benefits 15,000 households.
  • In Madagascar, safety net programs support nutrition and early childhood development, targeting 500,000 beneficiaries. An innovative approach benefits women through behavioral nudging that support business development skills and financial planning.
  • 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.
  • In Mexico, the Prospera conditional cash transfer program has benefitted nearly six million families and has been replicated in 52 countries.
  • The Philippines’ Pantawid conditional cash transfer program has helped improve enrollment of poor children in basic education and helped provide maternal care to poor families, helping reduce poverty at the national level.
  • Ghana’s Skills and Technology Development Project provided more than 600 grants to small businesses, providing skills training and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship for young people.
  • The World Bank Group’s State of Social Safety Nets 2015 reports that some 773 million of the poorest still lack safety net coverage – especially in lower-income countries and urban areas. The report calls for more efficient and effective safety net programs to close the coverage gap.
  • The World Bank reports: Golden Aging – Prospects for Healthy, Active and Prosperous Aging in Europe and Central Asia and Aging in East Asia highlight the challenges of an aging population and identify opportunities for healthy, prosperous lives. 

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2016

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 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 order to strengthen countries’ social protection systems, the World Bank together with development partners launched the Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessments (ISPA). ISPA is a set of tools that help countries develop standardized delivery mechanisms in designing social protection systems, allowing for the effective and coordinated delivery of social protection programs to beneficiaries. 

The World Bank is also part of an initiative -- Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) – to address the youth employment crisis. Launched in 2014, 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. S4YE launched its five-year strategy that will support employment and productive work for 150 million youth by 2030. Through its inaugural report: Toward Solutions for Youth Employment, the coalition highlighted the urgency and challenges of providing jobs to over 620 million young people that are unemployed. The report provides clear evidence that investments in youth employment that focus on innovation and collaboration pay off. 

Last Updated: Sep 06, 2016