Skip to Main Navigation


The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a major catalyst for increasing the global focus on social protection. Over the course of 2020-2021, countries across the globe implemented close to 4,000 social protection measures to respond to its economic impact. Cash transfers alone reached around 1.4 billion people or one out of six people in the world. 

As of March 2023, we are providing $26 billion in financing through our social protection and jobs programs, across regions and income levels, including $16.4 billion through IDA, our fund for the poorest.

As described in the 2022 Social Protection and Jobs Compass, countries need to build Universal Social Protection systems. Shocks are likely to become more prevalent as longer-term global trends like the evolving nature of work, demographic change, climate change, and conflict and fragility reshape economies and societies.


Social protection systems are at the heart of boosting human capital and empowering people. They 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.

Social protection systems that are well-designed can have powerful impacts of the long-term, by reducing inequalities, building resilience and ending the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Such systems and tools are transformative as they help mitigate economic and fiscal shocks and provide opportunity by giving people a chance to get out of poverty and become productive members of society. Well-designed social protection programs are cost-effective, costing countries on average about 1.5% of GDP.


Many countries have embraced social protection instruments such as safety net programs to harness human capital. Apart from providing struggling families with supplemental income, social safety nets also increase access to information and services, improve productivity, protect the elderly, and support people while they look for work.

The rapidly changing nature of work in countries at all income levels requires a dramatically new approach to social protection and labor policy, according to the report “Protecting All: Risk-Sharing for a Diverse and Diversifying World of Work”. It proposes an approach to worker protection and social security that is better adapted to an increasingly diverse and fluid world of work. These ideas are explored even more fully in the 2022 strategy update, “Charting a Course Towards Universal Social Protection: Resilience, Equity, and Opportunity for All


The world’s working-age population will increase by about 700 million people between 2019 and 2035. This means that an additional 470 million people will be seeking work. The disruptive impact of the COVID-19 crisis on workers, labor markets, and livelihoods has further underlined the importance of the jobs agenda.  

Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow, while making critical human capital investments today is a priority for achieving economic transformation in the poorest countries. As part of the Human Capital Project, the World Bank is supporting governments to equip the next generation of workers with the skills needed to tackle the types of jobs which the changing world of work will require. This also requires enabling workers to move from lower- to higher-productivity activities—led by a vibrant private sector and supported by public policy actions. 


The World Bank has a vision for universal social protection to ensure that all people have the support they need and that no individuals or groups are left behind. It is the cornerstone of inclusive social policy. 

Together with universal social protection programs, targeted interventions play a valuable role in helping achieve universal protection. A recent report “Revisiting Targeting in Social Assistance: A New Look at Old Dilemmas” provides a comprehensive analysis of the benefits and costs of social protection targeting as well as the pros and cons of various targeting methods based on global experience in over 130 countries.

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.

Read more

Last Updated: Apr 03, 2023

In Depth