The political economy of social protection in developing countries report from a UNU-WIDER symposium.


The sculpture below in Mexico City is called 'El Angel de la Securidad Social' (The Angel of Social Security) and was created by Jorge Marin in 2013 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) in 1943. In addition to a system of social security policies established at the same time, Mexico now also has a number of social assistance programmes, including one of the first national conditional cash transfer programmes reaching nearly 6 million households. Currently known as Prospers, its previous guises include Oportunidades and before that Progress, as each new government rebranded it and made a few adjustments to the design. This demonstrates their attempts to claim the programme's success, reflecting its political importance.

What kind of programmes count as social protection?

Mexico was therefore an appropriate location for UNU-WIDER's symposium on The political economy of social protection in developing countries', which brought together about 50 academics from more than 20 countries. According to @phdcomics a symposium is pretty niche ('like, only a few people in the world even know what it is'), but social protection is actually a broad area covering a range of familiar policies, such as pensions, health insurance and child benefits.

This wide scope led to questions about the criteria used to decide which kinds of programmes should be included in both a data set of 'redistributive transfers' used in one of the papers, and also in the Social Assistance, Politics and Institutions (SAPI) data base currently being developed by UNU-WIDER. For example, food security programmes are often disregarded but have formed the basis for social protection schemes, such as Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP).

The politics of social protection in sub-Saharan Africa'

The Effective States and Inclusive Development research centre (ESID), based at the University of Manchester, has a project on The Political Economy of Social Protection Expansion in Africa'. This research aims to explain variation in national experiences of social protection through a comparative study of five countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. At the symposium the ESID papers were presented in a panel on The politics of social protection in sub-Saharan Africa', which included each of the country papers plus initial comparative findings and the global perspective across two...

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