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Charting a Course Towards Universal Social Protection: Resilience, Equity, and Opportunity for All

Universal Social Protection

“Charting a Course Towards Universal Social Protection: Resilience, Equity, and Opportunity for All,” known as the Social Protection and Jobs Compass, updates the World Bank strategy for social protection amid rapid change both within the sector and beyond. The Compass puts at its heart the vision of universal social protection (USP). It recognizes that the progressive realization of USP, which ensures access to social protection for all whenever and however they need it, is critical for effectively reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity.


COVID-19 has hugely disrupted economies and societies across the globe. In addition, the threat of climate change, conflict and fragility, demographic shifts and rapid technological innovation make effective social protection, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable people,  crucially important—now more than ever. 

How countries make progress towards USP varies according to political and economic factors specific to each country, but in all cases, building fiscal space and institutional capacity are essential prerequisites.

Key messages:

There is pressure in almost all countries to raise social protection spending over the medium to long term amidst significant fiscal constraints. 

  • Achieving USP will require a substantial increase in national spending to achieve the necessary expansion of coverage of social protection programs.  
  • Reducing inefficient spending is critical for increasing fiscal space for effective social protection. 
  • The ability to finance universal social protection depends to a great extent on countries being able to mobilize more domestic revenues, but international support will also continue to be vital. 

USP can only be achieved with a suite of integrated programs driven by national governments. They can include: 

  • Social insurance, such as pensions, unemployment insurance, and disability benefits 
  • Social assistance, such as cash and in-kind transfers, and care services 
  • Labor and economic inclusion programs, such as training and public employment services.

There are 5 areas of focus for the World Bank’s work to support countries in achieving USP with women’s and girls’ empowerment and climate change as cross-cutting areas:

  • Building strong foundational social protection systems 
  • Increasing coverage for social protection programs and promoting greater inclusion 
  • Building more resilient, adaptive, and dynamic programming 
  • Scaling up effective economic inclusion and labor systems 
  • Creating more fiscal space for universal social protection.