Targeting of social protection fit for purpose is essential to support those in need

Regardless of the targeting method, robust delivery systems remain crucial.

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2022 – Social protection programs play a key role in helping individuals and families escape poverty, mitigate and manage risk, and improve resilience and opportunity. While the ultimate goal is to achieve universal social protection, interventions often have to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations first when resources are limited. Yet there is no single targeting method that fits all situations, and policy context and objectives should guide choices, according to a World Bank report released today.

Revisiting targeting in social assistance: a fresh look at old dilemmasprovides the latest comprehensive analysis of the benefits and costs of targeting social protection and assesses the advantages and disadvantages of various targeting methods based on global experience in over 130 countries.

Governments around the world choose to differentiate the eligibility and benefits of social protection programs, commonly referred to as targeting, to tailor programs to their purpose and reduce costs. It has been proven that it is often more equitable and cost effective to concentrate a greater share of the benefits on the poorest people than to extend coverage more widely.

“Most countries have limited resources for social protection measures, which is why it is so important to prioritize the populations most in need,” noted Michal Rutkowski, Global Director for Social Protection and Employment at the World Bank. Although a universal social protection system is the ultimate goal, the reality is that due to limited resources, coverage is still low and we need to focus these resources well. This means improving and modernizing targeting methods, delivering benefits to specific groups, and defining poor and vulnerable populations in each context.

The COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the importance of social protection to protect vulnerable people against major shocks. Since April 2020, World Bank social protection operations have reached $12.5 billion, benefiting nearly one billion people worldwide.

According to the report, when selecting a targeting method, factors such as program objectives, degree of poverty and inequality, level of administrative capacity, institutional history and political economy all come into play. In addition, decisions must be made judiciously given the costs of targeting, although the additional administrative costs associated with differentiating eligibility are generally quite small. This report aims to provide a practical guide for thinking about key issues when designing and implementing targeted programs.

Whatever the targeting method, strong social protection systems are critical to the success and impact of social protection programs,” noted Margaret Grosh, Senior World Bank Advisor and author of the report. “Good delivery systems can help reduce costs and stigma, minimize inclusion errors, facilitate crisis response and improve access to social assistance generally, especially for the most vulnerable. poor and most vulnerable, including indigenous communities, migrants and people with disabilities..”

The report found that advances in technology – ICT, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning – can improve targeting accuracy, including by utilizing the growing sources of new data and better accessing existing data. Traditional data held by government has been and will continue to be a driver for improving a government’s ability to assess well-being and target support to families. This requires policies that ensure strong protocols for data use and sharing and for data privacy and protection.

Effective social protection programs are essential to reduce poverty, enable investment in human capital and lay the foundations for equitable societies. The World Bank supports the efforts of developing countries to achieve universal social protection and helps them strengthen social protection systems and build a resilient and inclusive recovery.

For more information, including a copy of the new report: Revisiting targeting in social assistance: a fresh look at old dilemmasplease visit here

Joel C. Hicks