The much-awaited ‘white paper’ on social protection by Packard et al is out: probably closer to a book than a paper, there are at least four highlights that stand out: first, it shows how labor markets and social protection are deeply intertwined and would need to coevolve; second, it combines a solid diagnosis of the changing – as well as unchanging – nature of work with a set of layered policy options to adapt to it; third, it examines social protection across components (assistance, insurance) while reframing them in terms of objectives and instruments; and finally, it portrays a vision that while higher and lower income countries face different issues (e.g., non-standard work arrangements, informality, etc.), there appears to be a fascinating convergence in policy trajectory – i.e., the relevance of inclusive social assistance is on the rise, while the salience of traditional social insurance is withering. Check out also the report’s infographics, video, and blog.
A new article on conditional cash transfers in Peru by Gaentzsch generally confirms the global evidence base – that is, the Juntos program increases enrollment in/completion of primary school; helps transition to secondary school; but has no impact on test scores (math and language).
A cautionary tale from South Sudan: a paper by Muller et al illustrates how things can get wrong with a cash grant scheme in fragile settings – interruption due to conflict, negative impacts on various dimensions, reduced trust by beneficiaries. Yet there were positive effects for those that received treatment before interruption, especially on consumption, savings and psychological wellbeing.
Speaking of fragility, this week the IRC released its safer cash toolkit, a guide to help practitioners identify risks in cash transfers that may hinder both financial and reporting accountability of administrators, as well as the protection and dignity of beneficiaries (h/t Sophie Grumelard).
From cash to in-kind assistance: are there ways to enhance the supply-side of food aid provisions? Brennan et al conducted an experiment with 46 US shipments using different food aid packaging materials and sizes to measure the effect on shipment quality, cost, and timeliness. Results? New materials can improve cost-effectiveness – for example, bags with applied biopesticides can prevent insects from reproducing.
Since I mentioned food… a new paper looks at targeting, but in agricultural productivity terms: should input subsidies be provided to better-off farmers (on efficiency grounds) or to the poorest ones (with equity goals)? A field experiment in Tanzania by Gine et al shows that where beneficiaries were selected via a lottery, these were more likely to sell inputs to non-beneficiaries (secondary market). In contrast, were allocated via community targeting, inputs displace private fertilizers. Overall, impact of inputs on agricultural productivity and welfare were limited, suggesting to improve soil quality and irrigation instead.
From Africa to Asia: Gelb and Mukherjee take stock of lessons from India’s biometric ID (Aadhaar) in providing inclusive services, including as it evolved through stages – i.e., consolidating its rollout, embedding the unique Aadhaar number into program databases, and the flourishing of applications, such as digital signature and payments (India Stack) – as well as its different performance across states.
Anything new on resilience? Walsh and Hallegatte examine how the existing (or improved) social protection system in Sri Lanka could be flood-responsive. It does so by applying the socioeconomic resilience framework to a cost-benefit analysis of prospective adaptive social protection systems (based on enrollment in Samurdhi, the main program in the country). The analysis indicates that regular flooding events can suddenly move tens of thousands of Sri Lankans into transient poverty. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the poorest are not the most affected: on average, the bottom quintile suffers only 7% of the total asset losses but 32% of the total wellbeing losses. Bonus: the Gates foundation funded a guidance note on cost-benefit analysis in the health sector, with broad applicability to social protection (h/t Stephane Hallegatte).
From health to education: Dave Evans lays out 6 great take-aways on global evidence on education (featuring cash transfers as 6th). At more national level, a paper by Backer-Hickes et al connects education and incarceration in the US, where students in schools with slightly higher suspension rates are 15-20% more likely to be arrested and incarcerated as adults.
Turning to jobs, Marinescu has a new IZA piece on the performance of select active labor market programs, i.e., job search assistance and monitoring, including being presented in a crisp and handy format. What did she find? Overall, job search assistance and job search monitoring help the unemployed find jobs faster, and are relatively cheap to implement. However, intense job search monitoring accompanied by sanctions can lead the unemployed to take lower quality jobs, or to give up searching altogether and start receiving disability benefits instead. Also, job search assistance and monitoring can help program participants find a job at the expense of non-participants.
Three new paper on jobs and migration! Lokshin and Ravallion propose how to fill the missing market for work permits; Giambra and McKenzie provide a diagnostics on the profile of migrants (mostly wage workers and the unemployed; fewer self-employed); and in Nepal, Phadera shows that in response to out-migration of some family members, women reallocate their time from market employment to self-employment and home production.
Is it possible to jump-start adolescent girls’ economic and social empowerment? Evidence from Uganda seems encouraging: Bandiera et al evaluate the simultaneous provision of vocational training and information on sex, reproduction and marriage (paper is gated, email me for a copy). They find that 4 years post-intervention, adolescent girls in treated communities are more likely to be self-employed. Teen pregnancy, early entry into marriage/cohabitation and the share of girls reporting sex against their will fall sharply (h/t Indhira Santos).
Final mix: a VoxDev podcast with Penny Goldberg on why knowledge is power, a news piece discusses social pensions in the Philippines, while another praises the Ehsaas initiative in Pakistan (h/t Stefano Paternostro).