Challenges in designing and implementing social protection responses featured in Policy in Focus

Photo: ILO


The last three articles of the latest issue of the Policy in Focus magazine approach the cross-cutting issues of design and implementation of specific types of social protection responses—such as food security and nutrition and migrant-responsive social protection; and social protection across the whole life-cycle.  


In the article “Microsimulation analysis: A useful tool for the development of social policy in times of uncertainty”, Gerardo Escaroz (United Nations Children’s Fund—UNICEF) and José Espinoza-Delgado (University of Goettingen and UNICEF consultant) argue that microsimulation exercises can be a useful tool to simulate the impact of COVID-19 policy interventions, helping governments understand the depth and complexity of the current socio-economic crisis, assess social policy responses prior to their implementation, and gain insights into their amplitude and costs. 


When new data is not available, simulation exercises may allow a glimpse into what would happen to the socio-economic conditions of families under certain assumptions, parameters and scenarios. These exercises provide an idea of the trends, distributions and types of policies that can be implemented to address new challenges, such as alternative targeting methods, benefit levels or frequency of measures.  


How to finance universal social protection?  


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 55 per cent of the world’s population had no access to social protection benefits, with extensive differences across and within regions and countries. Overcoming current social protection coverage and financing gaps requires not only investing more in social protection, but also investing better.  


A set of guidelines to achieve this goal already exists. According to Mira Bierbaum (International Labour Organization—ILO), Markus Kaltenborn (Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany), Valérie Schmitt (ILO) and Nicola Wiebe (Brot für die Welt), in their article “Financing universal social protection during COVID-19 and beyond: Towards a common road map to invest more and better”, the ILO has developed normative instruments—international conventions and recommendations—covering all areas of social protection.  


Significantly, Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202 (2012) outlines 19 principles to guide countries in building nationally owned social protection systems that encompass the whole population and leave no one behind, are financially sustainable and socially just, rely on sound management and governance, and provide good value for money.  


The document emphasises that each country is primarily responsible for financing its own social protection system. Taxes and social insurance contributions are the main sources through which a society can ensure solidarity-based financing of its various social programmes. However, some low-income countries struggle to generate sufficient resources for social protection from national sources and might need to rely, at least temporarily, on additional international solidarity.  


In this sense, “humanitarian cash transfers (HCTs) should be linked to or aligned with national systems, which also allows for the potential of handing interventions over to national systems for improved sustainability of support”, as argued in the article “Opportunities for strengthening the links between humanitarian cash transfers and social protection: Lessons from COVID-19 responses” by Roberta Brito and Patricia Velloso Cavallari, from the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), and Lois Austin (Grand Bargain Cash Workstream).  


The authors provide case studies with examples of successful linkages between social protection and HCTs, with humanitarian assistance actors working together with national systems to respond to humanitarian needs in the context of the pandemic.  


An unprecedented crisis such as the current one forces policymakers and practitioners to adapt programmes and develop original solutions, as the usual good practices may not work in lockdown situations. The pandemic might evidence the benefits of integrating the humanitarian and social protection sectors, as they must work closely together to overcome current adversities. 


Photo: ILO 


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