Icon Our WorkThe Social Protection Flaw – or how not to win fiscal space for entitlements

The many disadvantages to poverty-targeted social protection include the fact that they never become entitlements that attract popular demand and the financial backing of governments, writes Nicholas Freeland, independent consultant.

Freeland highlights examples of poverty-targeted schemes that have failed to win domestic investment and have had low impact, and of the contrasting story of inclusive schemes. He draws the attention of the sector to how politicians do not sit up and pay attention to donor-funded schemes that exclude the majority of populations. Given this, Freeland questions why the ‘social protection flaw’ of poverty-targeting continues to be promoted over social protection floors.

He writes: “What we are striving for, as social protection practitioners, is programmes that are based on entitlement, that generate increased domestic funding, and that maintain (or even raise) the value of their benefits to the poor and vulnerable over time. We are not going to get this from poverty-targeting.”


  • Yes, you are right! The assumption that there is a fixed group called ‘the poor’ bedevils development. It means that the life cycle shocks the majority on low or modest incomes could face, children, illness, disability, and old age, will have an adverse impact on livelihoods and lives. Thankfully a number of nations, such as Kenya, and as Nicholas mentions, Lesotho and Zambia, are recognising this.


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