A growing number of developing countries, including Bangladesh, are investing in social safety net programmes to improve the lives and livelihoods vulnerable people, yet around 55 percent of the world’s poor or 773 million people with acute needs still lack safety net coverage.
These countries, especially in lower-income countries and in urban areas, must take action to close this coverage gap, says a new World Bank Group report.According to The State of Social Safety Nets 2015, more than 1.9 billion people in 136 low- and middle-income countries are now on beneficiary rolls of social safety net programmes.
Many South Asian countries can be considered to have been pioneers in the recent extension of social pensions, says the report.
Bangladesh, India, and Nepal all introduced social pensions in the mid- to late-1990s. The programmes in Bangladesh and India were originally targeted to a small minority of older people, but have since been gradually expanding coverage, it said.
In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the global poor live, social safety nets cover one-tenth and one-fifth of the poorest 20 percent, respectively.
The coverage of the poor living in urban areas is lower than in rural settings. The difference amounts to about 8.5 percentage points in low-income countries.
In Africa alone, the number of countries setting up social safety net programs has doubled over the past three years, as evidenced by rigorous evaluations that prove these programs work.
But three quarters of the poorest people in low- and lower-middle income countries, and more than one-third of the poorest people in middle-income countries, lack safety net coverage and remain at risk.
The report follows the recent joint statement by the heads of the World Bank Group and the International Labor Organization (ILO), endorsing the goal of universal access to social protection – including safety nets- by 2030.
The Third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa next week is an opportunity to ensure that the international community has the means to make this vision a reality.
“The World Bank Group and the ILO share a vision of social protection for all, a world where anyone who needs social protection can access it at any time,” said Jim Yong Kim, World Bank Group President and Guy Ryder, Executive Director, ILO, in their joint statement.
“The new development agenda that is being defined by the world community – the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – provides an unparalleled opportunity for our two institutions to join forces to make universal social protection a reality, for everyone, everywhere.”
These programmes include cash and in-kind transfers targeted to poor and vulnerable households, with the goal of protecting families from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters, and other crises; ensuring that children grow up healthy, well-fed, and can stay in school and learn; empowering women and girls; and creating jobs. -WB