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December 1, 2017 (links edition #36)

The new ILO World Social Protection Report 2017-2019 is out. The flagship is very rich (and 470 pages long), hence summarizing it would probably require a special links edition. So let me just flag a few factoids: only 45% of the world’s population is covered by at least one social protection program, leaving the remaining 55% – or 4 billion people – unprotected; only 21.8% of unemployed workers benefit from unemployment insurance, while 152 million unemployed workers remain without coverage; and spending on pensions and other benefits for seniors account for 6.9% of GDP on average.

Two fascinating articles on universal basic income: an interview with Irv Garfinkel traces the origins of social assistance programs in the US, including an intriguing reflection on whether the enthusiasm behind UBI (and negative income tax) in the 1960s is resurfacing nowadays, and what’s different. In other one piece for the NYT, Bruenig champions a social wealth fund a la Alaska. BTW, since I mentioned the word ‘tax’, Dabla-Norris et al discuss how to reduce tax-compliance costs for small firms, while Furman makes a number of interesting points in a presentation on the current US tax debate.

Several cash transfers-related resources in challenging contexts. In 2016-2017, Save the Children implemented a project targeting over 10,000 households in Somalia with monthly cash transfers using mobile phones: results from a report by Radice and Hussein show that because of the program, there was a 24% increase in mobile phones and mobile money accounts. Yet, 80% of respondents felt that mobile money discouraged the sharing of cash. In Northeast Nigeria, a joint USAID-Mercy Corps market assessment (key for cash programming) came up with 31 recommendations for four market systems (cereals, pulses, vegetables and agriculture inputs). Finally, the Basic Needs Analysis (BNA) is a multi-sector needs assessment approach that can be applied in both sudden onset and protracted emergencies: a guide funded by ECHO was just published.

A number of nutrition-related materials. A new NBER paper by Ravallion, Brown and van de Walle, studies the effectiveness of household targeting efforts when trying to reach poor individuals, as identified by the nutritional status of women and children. Based on data from 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, they show that undernourished women and children are spread quite widely across the household wealth and consumption distributions. In particular, roughly three-quarters of underweight women and undernourished children are not found in the poorest 20% of households, and around half are not found in the poorest 40%. They conclude that for reaching undernourished women and children in Africa, interventions will either require more individualized intra-household information or they will need to be nearly-universal in coverage. In a Brookings blog, Mulango analyzes why Ghana performs well on most food security and malnutrition dimensions, but not on dietary diversity and anemia. Finally, Bossavie et al show that Pakistan confirms global evidence of height as a labor productivity proxy, not just one for other measures of human capital.

Four papers on resilience and fragility. An ODI report by Opitz-Stapleton et al looks at the linkages between climate change and mobility (see infographics here). It is not one of those number-filled papers, but one that flashes out an interesting way of conceptualizing the factors that affect (climate-induced) mobility decisions, and how to plan ahead (e.g., see p.16, 18 and 21); Kirbyshire has a piece on managing heat waves in Indian cities. Twigg and Mosel discuss spontaneous actions by self-organizing, voluntary groups in urban disasters when state response is lacking (h/t Paul Bance). Finally, Cooley and Papoulidis emphasize the role of social capital in scaling-up interventions in fragile states.

Ayliffe et al have a new report on the importance of social accountability, e.g., social audits that involve citizens, in reducing corruption and improving social protection. Four country case studies on Ethiopia South Africa, India and Nepal will be published in the coming months. Speaking of accountability, Shanta Devarajan has a handy blog discussing the ‘state of the world’, encompassing thoughts on global growth, its sustainability, infrastructure and human capital, and – indeed – accountability (see also longer ppt + video here).

A couple of poverty materials. An ESID working paper by Asadulla and Savola argues that over 1990-2013, poverty reduction was faster in countries with initial higher poverty, with a key role played by state capability. How to reduce poverty-induced school drop-out in innovative ways? An ESRC brief evaluates some English and Math curriculums designed to encourage independent learning for children for whom school attendance was often erratic (because taking care of sick family members or being engaged in work activities): here the role of catch-up clubs run by youth volunteers providing additional learning opportunities in friendly, informal environments was particularly relevant.

Final bonus: Duncan Green writes an effusive review of the latest book by Jean Dreze, ‘Sense and Solidarity’.

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