• Social protection systems help individuals and families, especially the poor and vulnerable, cope with crises and shocks, find jobs, improve productivity, 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. Such systems and tools are transformative as they not only help the poor and most vulnerable mitigate economic and fiscal shocks, but also help ensure equality of opportunity by giving them a chance to climb out of poverty, and become productive members of society. When poor and vulnerable people have the opportunity to improve their lives and that of their families, and are less likely to move in search of a better life. Well-designed social protection programs are cost-effective, costing countries on average about 1.5 percent of GDP.

    The World Bank Group’s annual lending in the Social Protection and Jobs portfolio, as of as of April 2019, reached $16.24 billion with $10.83 billion in lending to IDA countries, targeting the world’s poorest. These resources support 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.

    Today, our social protection systems not only deliver social assistance and insurance to the poor and vulnerable, but are also used to link them to jobs, improve productivity, invest in the health and education of their children, and protect the aging population. While achievements in designing and promoting the adoption of social assistance programs and delivery systems have been made, investing heavily in initiatives to improve jobs and earnings opportunities, and the expansion of social insurance programs are equally important.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2019

  • 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 delivering social protection programs.

    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: Mar 28, 2019

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

    • 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.
    • In response to the famine affecting Sub-saharan Africa and Yemen, the World Bank mobilized $1.8 billion to build social protection systems, such as safety nets to strengthen community resilience.
    • 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 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.

    • In Ghana, a strengthened safety nets system has improved the lives of more than 1 million beneficiaries, 55% of which are women.

    • In El Salvador, the World Bank Group helped establish an integrated social protection system and provided income support to more than 40,000 beneficiaries in poor urban areas, preventing them from falling into poverty.

    • In Nicaragua, close to 18,000 families benefitted and graduated from a community-based social welfare model. The program also helped increase school enrollment by 90%.

    • In Madagascar, with support from the World Bank's Fund for the Poorest (IDA), cash transfer were provided to more than 80,000 poor households, while promoting nutrition, early childhood development, children school attendance and productive activities of families.

    • Through innovations in technologies, a joint project with the IFC – the World Bank’s private sector arm – is helping expand social protection coverage in Cote d’Ivoire.

    • The World Bank Group’s State of Social Safety Nets 2018 reports that an estimated 2.5 billion people are covered by safety net transfers with some 650 million people of the poorest. 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: Mar 28, 2019

  • In September 2016, the World Bank Group and the International Labour Organization (ILO) joined forces to achieve social protection for all. The new partnership will expand social protection measures worldwide as part of a global effort to combat poverty and rising income inequality.

    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.

    special multi-donor trust fund has also been set up to support adaptive social protection in the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Senegal). Program activities include technical assistance and capacity-building managed by the World Bank Group. The programs are implemented by respective governments and complements more than $252 million in IDA funding for social protection programs.

    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.

    Last Updated: Mar 28, 2019



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In Depth


Human Capital Project

The Human Capital Project is a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people for greater equity and economic growth.


World Bank, ILO Push for Universal Social Protection

The partnership will expand social protection measures worldwide as part of efforts to combat poverty and rising income inequality.


Rapid Social Response Program

A multi-donor program that is helping the world's poorest countries in building social protection systems.


Sahel Adaptive Social Protection Program Trust Fund

The program helps increase access to effective adaptive social protection systems in six Sahel countries.


Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment Tools

Practical tools that help countries analyze social protection policies and programs.