INCLUDE Platform

Julie Newton

ORGANISATION: Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)
TITLE: Senior Advisor
SPECIALISATION: sustainable communities, food security, nutrition, wellbeing, gender, social protection and child rights

Dr Julie Newton is a Senior Advisor at the Sustainable Economic Development and Gender Unit at the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT). Julie has a background in Human Geography specialising in food security, natural resource management and gender issues. Throughout her career, she has worked at the interface of research, policy and practice in the fields of sustainable communities, food security, nutrition, wellbeing, gender, social protection and child rights in Africa and Asia.

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Question of the Week 1 2016-07-06 13:53:47
In the 1990s, cash transfers were positioned as the new panacea for securing women’s empowerment. Lessons from Latin America yielded important insights for African governments and non-governmental organisations seeking to replicate and scale out many cash transfer programmes as part of a wider effort to deliver social protection. In response, there has been a plethora of studies and evaluations looking at different impacts of design features (conditionality, targeting, etc.) on the effectiveness of cash transfers on different development outcomes such as women’s employment, often in the context of studies on ‘economic advancement’ or ‘women’s economic empowerment’.

Increasingly it is recognised that whilst cash transfers can support some aspects of women’s financial inclusion and help to start small businesses, they are not enough to change the position of women in the household or advance economic opportunities in the long term. Rather, the focus should be on developing better integrated social protection systems that combine different instruments (of which cash transfers is one) with a transformative agenda that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment. This recognises that women’s employment is one facet of empowerment, which cannot be tackled by cash transfers alone without addressing structural causes of inequality which exclude them from the labour market in the first place. Here I summarise some of the key issues discussed in the context of effectiveness of cash transfers in securing women’s employment.

Conditionality and targeting

Issues of conditionality and targeting are often highlighted in debates over the effectiveness of cash transfers. Latin America’s experience cautions against the risk of conditional cash transfers reinforcing women’s roles as primary caregivers (as opposed to their productive roles) because of assumptions they are more likely to spend resources on children’s welfare. Conditionality has also been criticized for its paternalistic view of welfare, particularly how it reinforces the role of mothers as ‘agents of the state’ responsible for securing important goals for the next generation without any support for their own life options. It also marginalizes men from care responsibilities and ignores women’s potential productive roles.

The impact of conditionality and targeting on women’s employment in Africa is mixed and context specific. For example, a recent evaluation of the Zambian Government’s Child Grant, an unconditional cash transfer targeting women in households with young children, concludes that the positive impact of the programme on increasing savings and diversification into non-farm enterprises traditionally operated by women is attributed to fact that it is unconditional and targeted at women. Yet, it does not tell us about the impact on intra household decision making on labour allocation and the quality of employment opportunities. This highlights the need for more labour-time use studies to understand the effects of cash transfers on the work burden of recipients due to change in labour status and programme conditionalities. Similarly with programmes specifically targeting women, there is a need to look at changes in bargaining power and decision making between men and women.

Need for integrated programmes that guarantee attractive wages, decent work and time to work

Cash transfers need to be linked to additional social services and interventions (e.g. financial literacy skills, skill development programmes and extension services) to support women’s employment. A recent ILO review of cash transfer programmes from South Africa, Brazil, Chile, India and Mexico shows that skilled employment offers the best chances for women to have the freedom to make choices and increase social status. It concludes that cash transfers on their own are not sufficient without a set of integrated services that simultaneously provide the combination of a) decent jobs b) time to work and c) specialised training or subsidies to ensure wages are attractive. For example, although the Expanded Public Works Programme in South Africa provided skills training in the social sector, it was not able to achieve 60% of women’s employment because the project wages were too low and were unable to guarantee prospects for future work after leaving the programme.

Cash transfers refer to a form of social protection either provided by the State or other development actors (e.g. NGOs) to assist vulnerable and marginalised groups to maintain and build productive assets and livelihood activities. They fall into three main categories:
Unconditional Cash Transfers (UCT) where transfers are made without meeting any conditions.
Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) which involves a transfer on the condition of meeting a specified criterion (e.g. school attendance, clinic attendance)
Labelled Cash Transfer (LCT) where transfers are ‘labelled’ for a specific purpose, but conditions are not enforced.

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