Barriers to the Extension of Social Protection: Evidence from Asia

Edited by: Naila Kabeer and Sarah Cook

June 2010
Volume 41 Number 4

Social protection is once again high on the international policy agenda as the multiple crises of the past three years have devastated the livelihoods of millions already living in or close to poverty, and increased vulnerability and uncertainty for millions more.

The Social Protection in Asia (SPA) programme, under which the contributions to this IDS Bulletin have been produced, arose in similar circumstances, following the Asia financial crisis of the late 1990s. This issue feeds into current debates about the design of appropriate social protection schemes that effectively meet identified needs. It builds on earlier research that focused on the dynamics of poverty and social exclusion within the region, identifying the major problems facing groups most likely to rely on informal safety nets. The articles offer lessons for making social protection strategies more systematic and inclusive; collectively they provide insights into a number of general themes that are important for the wider social protection agenda. Some point to the ways in which social protection programmes can have wider developmental impacts that offset some of the resources used to finance them (such as investments in human capital leading to a more healthy, skilled and productive workforce). What various findings from a range of studies suggest is that far from promoting the dependency of the poor on welfare handouts, well-designed social protection interventions can provide the opportunity ladders that they need to climb their way out of poverty, to participate in social and political life, and to contribute to wider processes of development and inclusive economic growth.