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    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. Social protection programs are at the heart of boosting human capital for the world’s most vulnerable. They empower people to be healthy, pursue their education, and seek opportunity to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

    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.


    Social protection has been key to this effort and many countries have embraced social protection instruments such as safety net programs as a means of harnessing 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.  



    Social protection helps people become productive and realize their human capital. The jobs agenda is at the forefront of the Human Capital Project. Every month, two million new young people join the work force—a challenge compounded by the fact that 200 million people are unemployed and looking for work. Of those working, 65 percent are stuck in low productivity jobs.  

    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 HCP, the 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 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”.

    The World Bank Group’s Social Protection and Jobs portfolio reached $18.63 billion as of September 2019, with $11.68 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.

    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.


    COVID-19 Response

    Effective social protection systems are crucial to safeguarding the poor and vulnerable when crisis hits. In response to COVID-19, the World Bank Group (WBG) is working fast to provide social protection interventions to protect the poor and vulnerable in developing countries from the adverse impacts of the pandemic.

    In the immediate term, the WBG will leverage existing social protection systems in countries to help families and businesses restore income, preserve livelihoods, and compensate for increasing prices and unexpected medical expenses. The WBG will also continue to help countries enhance the preparedness of their social protection systems and build resilience against future crises.

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    Last Updated: Apr 10, 2020

  • 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 also 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: Oct 08, 2019

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

    • Indonesia, one of the early adopters of the Human Capital Project, is among the many countries around the world using social safety nets to help an estimated 10 million of its poorest and most vulnerable.  The country’s two main social assistance programs—the Program Keluarga Harapan (PKH) and Bantuan Pangan Non-Tunai (BPNT)—are part of the Government’s commitment to accelerate investments in human capital 
    • In Egypt, the Takaful and Karama program (“solidarity and dignity”) launched in 2015 provided income support to families conditional on keeping children in school and ensuring access to health care. The program also extends assistance to the elderly, providing poor citizens over age 65 with an unconditional small monthly pension. To date, Takaful and Karama has benefitted more than 9 million people, or about 10 percent of Egypt’s population. The World Bank Group is rapidly expanding its social protection investments, and as part of the newly unveiled Human Capital Plan for Africa, it is setting ambitious targets, such as increasing safety nets and job training, by 2023. Every country in Sub-Saharan Africa has at least one social protection program, whether it’s a cash transfer, public works project or a school feeding program.In Ethiopia, the Productive Safety Nets Program(PSNP)—one of the largest cash transfer programs in the world— is providing regular cash or food to beneficiaries in exchange for land restoration work, irrigation, and agroforestry. Every year, the PSNP protects 8 million core program beneficiaries plus up to 2 million transitory food insecure people (about 10 million in total) through its scalable instrument.  
    • In 2016, Southern Africa experienced the worst drought in more than 30 decades, with 32 million people experiencing food insecurity. In response to this humanitarian crisis,  the governments of Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique made critical efforts to expand their safety net programs to help ensure coverage of the affected populations,  with the support of the World Bank.

    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.


    Last Updated: Oct 08, 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: Oct 08, 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.

Partnership for Economic Inclusion

PEI is a global network that seeks to help increase the income and assets of extremely poor and vulnerable people.

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.