• An estimated 36 percent of the very poor escaped extreme poverty because of social safety nets, providing clear evidence that social safety net programs—which include cash, in-kind transfers, social pensions, public works, and school feeding programs targeted to poor and vulnerable households—are making a substantial impact in the global fight against poverty. Data also shows that these programs lower inequality, and reduce the poverty gap by about 45 percent. These positive effects of safety net transfers hold true for low and middle-income countries alike.  

    Yet in low-income countries around one in five of the world’s poor still lack safety net coverage.

    Safety nets benefits as a share of the poor’s income and consumption are lowest in low-income countries, at only 13 percent. Sub-Saharan African countries spend an average of US$16 per citizen annually on safety net programs, whereas countries in the Latin America and the Caribbean region spend an average of US$158 per citizen annually. Globally, developing and transition countries spend an average of 1.5 percent of GDP on safety net programs.

    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, some 2.5 billion people are covered by safety net programs and some 650 million people or 56 percent of the poorest quintile.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2019

  • 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 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 concept of “Adaptive” Social Protection has emerged in recent years, which places an enhanced focus on better enabling social protection to address the impacts of all manner of shocks on households – including natural disasters and climate change, economic and financial crises, conflict and displacement, among others. A nascent area, adaptive social protection has begun to crystalize around two interrelated approaches: 1.) Building the resilience of the households that are most vulnerable to shocks; 2) increasing the responsiveness of social protection programs to adapt to and meet changed needs on the ground after shocks have materialized.

    Preparedness measures for safety nets can be advanced even further through additional investments to make programs more flexible and capable of expanding to reach additional households.

    The World Bank supports a diverse set of safety net interventions, ranging from cash transfers to public works to old age pensions. 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, 2019

  • 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.

    • In Egypt, the Takaful and Karama program covers 2.26 million households where 88% of the program's beneficiaries are women. The “Takaful” part of the program gives monthly conditional pensions to vulnerable families, while the “Karama” part gives non-conditional pensions to poor, elderly citizens above 65 years of age, and citizens with severe disabilities and diseases as well as orphans.
    • 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 eight million people poor and chronically food insecure households in the country. Analysis shows that the direct effect of payments reduces poverty by 7%.
    • In Madagascar, with support from the World Bank's Fund for the Poorest (IDA), cash transfers were provided to more than 80,000 poor households, while promoting nutrition, early childhood development, children school attendance and productive activities of families.
    • In Peru, the Juntos cash transfer program helped address chronic malnutrition, reducing childhood stunting rate in half in just 8 years, from 28% in 2008 to 13% in 2016.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2019


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