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Franziska Gassmann is Professor of Social Protection and Development at Maastricht University and Professor Poverty and Social Protection at Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Science. She is currently leading the research theme on Social Protection, Inclusive Innovation and Development at the United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and social Research institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT). Professor Gassmann has experience as consultant and adviser to governments and international organisations on social policy issues. She has project experience in more than 15 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and is leading the Research Group on Social Protection "Cost-benefit analysis of cash transfer programmes and post trauma services for the economic empowerment of women in Uganda".

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Question of the Week 13 2016-09-27 09:53:17
Contrary to widely held perceptions, social protection does not create negative labor market incentives in developing countries. Searching for employment generates transaction costs, which might exceed the financial resources of a household. Think, for example, of the costs related to sending an application, paying for transport to get to the job interview and the need for decent clothing to make a good first impression. Evidence from South Africa points at a 11% increase in labor market participation in households receiving the social pension (Samson et al., 2004), and in Brazil the Bolsa Familia program led to a 2.6 percentage point increase in adult labor market participation (Oliveira et al., 2007). These are just two examples coming to my mind.

Question of the Week 3 2016-07-18 11:37:58
While most countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have social security legislation governing formal employment related contingencies such as old age, maternity or sickness, only few countries have similar legislation for non-contributory social protection provisions which extend to poor and vulnerable households and individuals. In 2014, 48 countries in Africa had at least one non-contributory social protection program, ranging from unconditional cash transfers to fee waivers (World Bank 2015). However, many of those are not governed by national legislation. Among the multitude of social protection programs recently implemented in SSA, there is still a tendency towards short-term initiatives often leading to fragmented systems, while the ideal social protection scheme would be institutionalized.

Besides one-off initiatives often in the context of humanitarian crises, existing social protection programs can be divided into multi-year projects supported by the international donor community and integrated social protection schemes. The former, although they may provide regular benefits to recipients, are not grounded in national legislation and as such do not provide a guarantee by law. Social protection schemes that constitute an entitlement to citizens and are guaranteed by law (constitution or national legislation) are still underdeveloped in SSA (Cherrier, forthcoming).

Most progress has been made with respect to the protection of older persons. South Africa and Namibia belonged to the first countries in SSA introducing social pension schemes in the early 1990s. These schemes, introduced after the end of apartheid, provided all older persons with a benefit regardless of race. Shortly after, other countries in Southern Africa followed the example. Botswana introduced a universal pension in 1996, Lesotho in 2004 and Swaziland in 2005 (ILO 2014). Cabo Verde and Mauritius are two other countries that have fully functioning social pension schemes. Lesotho is often quoted as a success story for social protection, show-casing that social transfers are affordable in countries with very limited financial resources. Moreover, the design and implementation of the social pension was purely domestically driven without donor support (Cherrier, forthcoming). While only 8.4 percent of the older persons benefited from the social pension in 2000, it now covers all people above the age of 70 (ILO 2014).

While social pensions may be attractive for policy makers from a political economy perspective, social protection programs for other vulnerable groups in the population are generally more contested and less often protected by national legislation. Contrary to Latin America and the Caribbean where employment-related benefits are in many countries combined with legislated non-contributory social protection programs that extend to children and their families (ILO 2014), few countries in SSA have similar legislation. Many programs are still in the pilot phase and/or heavily depend on donor support. These programs are rarely anchored in national legislation which would establish eligibility criteria and rights to entitlements (ILO 2014).

Again, a notable exception is the child grant program in South Africa. It was first introduced in 1998 replacing the State Maintenance Grant, which had an extremely low coverage and was rather ineffective in reducing poverty. Over the years, changes have been made to the child grant program, such as raising the maximum age of the child and the income level below which a family is eligible for the grant. In 2012, more than 10 million children benefited from the grant (DSD, SASSA and UNICEF, 2012). A recent impact assessment attributes positive developmental impacts to the child grant. Besides reducing poverty and vulnerability in receiving households, the child grant contributes to better nutritional, educational and health outcomes (DSD, SASSA and UNICEF, 2012).

Even though a majority of non-contributory social protection programs is not yet anchored in national legislation in SSA, many countries have formulated national social protection policies or strategies. According the World Bank (2015), countries in SSA are the most active in this context. As of 2014, 27 countries already had social protection strategies in place and 15 were planning or preparing a comprehensive strategy document. It shows the increasing recognition of social protection as an important tool in the overall development framework.

- Cherrier, Cécile (forthcoming). The Expansion of Basic Social Protection in Low-Income Countries. An Analysis of Foreign Aid Actors’ Role in the Emergence of Social Transfers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Maastricht: Universiteit Maastricht.
- DSD, SASSA and UNICEF (2012). The South African Child Support Grant Impact Assessment: Evidence from a survey of children, adolescents and their households. Pretoria: UNICEF South Africa.
- ILO (2014). World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice. Geneva: International Labour Office.
World Bank (2015). The State of Social Safety Nets 2015. Washington, DC: World Bank.