Inclusive societies and development

Social Protection


Social protection policies play an important role in enhancing social cohesion by reducing inequalities, preventing social exclusion and limiting downward mobility. Being part of an effective social protection system strengthens “the capacity of poor people to participate in, contribute to and benefit from economic, social and political life of their communities and societies” (OECD, 2009). Social protection can consist of both public and private initiatives, such as remittances, social transfers, social insurance, minimum standards, or social services. While the essential elements vary significantly across different social protection frameworks, social assistance, social insurance and labour standards are some of the most commonly included categories of instruments.

An effective and inclusive social protection system reduces the risk of citizens from falling (back) into the poverty trap. The provision of basic safety nets increases well-being in the long term, enabling a person from taking sudden negative decisions which might compromise her chances in the future (Grynspan, 2011). Furthermore, social protection programmes build trust in public institutions and reinforce the idea of a social contract as citizens perceive that they belong to a shared system which strives to shield them from certain risks (Filgueira, 2006). However a balance between assistance and responsibility is crucial for the social contract and to enhance the feeling of community.

Social protection affects both functional distributions of income and future prospects, by creating better conditions for human capital accumulation for vulnerable groups. However, social protection systems often create dual systems that are segmented into social assistance for the poor and contribution-based social insurance for formal workers, leaving a 'missing middle' in the coverage of middle-income but informal groups. To avoid reinforcing the dual nature of labour markets, reforms in social protection systems need to be part of a holistic agenda that considers their interactions with labour market outcomes. Both systems should be judged not only in terms of their efficiency, but also their ability to prevent or mitigate duality and segmentation (OECD, 2012).



Grynspan, R. (2011), “Advancing Human Development: Towards policies that build social cohesion”, presented at the International Conference for Social Cohesion and Development 2011, Paris.

OECD (2009), Promoting Pro-Poor Growth, Social Protection, OECD, Paris.

OECD (2012), Perspectives on Global Development 2012, OECD, Paris.


Suggested further reading:

  • European University Institute (2010), Social Protection for Inclusive Development, European Report on Development, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole.
  • OECD (2009), Promoting Pro-Poor Growth, Social Protection, OECD, Paris.
  • OECD (2013), Social Protection and Climate Change, OECD, Paris.
  • Barrientos, A. (2009), “Social pensions in Low Income Countries”, in R. Holzmann, D. Dobralino and N. Takayama (eds.), Closing the Coverage Gap: The Role of Social Pensions and Other Retirement Transfers, World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • Carrin, G., M.P. Waelkens and B. Criel (2005), “Community-Based Health Insurance in Developing Countries: A Study of its Contribution to the Performance of Health Financing Systems”, Tropical Medicine and International Health, 10(8), pp. 799-811.
  • Dercon, S. (2011), “Social Protection, Efficiency and Growth”, Paper presented at the ABCDE 2011 Conference on Broadening Opportunities for Development, Paris, 30 May-1 June 2011.
  • DFID (2011), “Cash Transfers”, Policy Division Evidence Paper, UK Department for International Development.
  • EU (2013), Social protection budgets in the crisis in the EU Social protection budgets in the crisis in the EU - Working paper 01/2013  (06/06/2013)
  • Ferreira, F.H.G. and D. Robalino (2010), “Social Protection in Latin America: Achievement and Limitations”, Policy Research Working Paper, No. 5305, World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • Freeman, R. (2009), “Labor Regulations, Unions and Social Protection in Developing Countries: Market Distortions or Efficient Institutions?”, NBER Working Paper, 14789, NBER, Cambridge (MA).
  • Grynspan, R. (2011), “Advancing Human Development: Towards policies that build social cohesion”, presented at the International Conference for Social Cohesion and Development 2011, Paris.
  • Hu, Y. and F. Stewart (2009), “Pension Coverage and Informal Sector Workers: International Experiences”, OECD Working Papers on Insurance and Private Pensions, No. 31, OECD, Paris.
  • ILO (2011), Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization,
  • OECD (2009), “Social Protection, Poverty Reduction and Pro-Poor Growth”, OECD DAC POVNET Policy Guidance Note, OECD, Paris.
  • Ribe, H., D.A. Robalino and I. Walker (2010), Achieving Effective Protection for All in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Right to Reality, World Bank, Washington, DC
  • Sehnbruch, K. (2006), “Unemployment Insurance or Individual Savings Accounts: Can Chile’s New Scheme Serve as a Model for other Developing Countries?”, International Social Security Review, Vol. 59, 1/2006.
  • Sepúlveda, Magdalena and Nyst, Carly (2012), The Human Rights Approach to Social Protection, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.
  • Tabor, S.R. (2005), Community-Based Health Insurance and Social Protection Policy, World Bank Institute, Washington, DC.
  • Unicef (2012), Integrated SocialProtection SystemsEnhancing Equity for Children
  • World Bank (2013): Social Protection, Poverty and the Post-2015 Agenda
  • World Bank (2012), Building Social Protectionand Labor Systems
  • United Nations Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPF-I)
  • The Social Protection Toolbox - United Nations “Strengthening Social Protection”
  • ILO Social Protection Floor
  • International Labour Organisation on Social Protection , ,
  • The World Bank on Social Protection and Labor


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