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Social Protection & Labor Strategy Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some important questions about specific aspects of the strategy.

Questions
bullet-square What is the nature of World Bank support to countries in social protection and labor (SPL)?
bullet-square What is the Bank’s value added in SPL?
bullet-square Why do you need a new SPL strategy? What is different about this strategy?
bullet-square What is the main direction of the strategy?
bullet-square Where do Social Safety Nets (SSN) fit in?
bullet-square Who was consulted in the design of the strategy?
bullet-square How will you measure the effectiveness of the strategy’s implementation?
bullet-square What is the role of partnerships in the strategy and who are the principal partners?
bullet-square Which are the principal target countries for the new strategy? Does the strategy distinguish between middle-income and low-income countries?
bullet-square How will the strategy be funded?
bullet-square What other Bank funding instruments are available for countries?
bullet-square How does the Rapid Social Response (RSR) program fit into the strategy?
bullet-square Which sectors need to be engaged in SPL policy and implementation?
bullet-square What is the relationship between the strategy and the findings of the forthcoming World Development Report (WDR) on jobs?
bullet-square How does the strategy promote gender equality, and how does it incorporate findings from the 2012 WDR on gender equality and development?
bullet-square How does the strategy consider equity issues?
bullet-square How does the strategy address the informal sector?
bullet-square How does the strategy address mainstreaming for people with disabilities?
bullet-square How will the strategy help alleviate poverty, and address the structural causes of poverty?
bullet-square How does the strategy consider the UN-based Social Protection Floor initiative?
bullet-square How does the strategy help countries address Core Labor Standards?
bullet-square How does the strategy address vulnerabilities as a result of climate change?
Answers
What is the nature of World Bank support to countries in social protection and labor (SPL)?

The World Bank’s support to countries for social protection and labor (SPL) is based on the premise that effective SPL policies and programs help create the resilience, equity, and access to jobs and opportunities essential to save lives, reduce poverty, and promote sustainable growth.

At the World Bank, SPL encompasses support for three groups of activities:

  • social assistance programs (non-contributory transfers, also known as social safety nets) including cash transfers, school feeding, and targeted food assistance and subsidies;
  • contributory social insurance programs such as old-age and disability pensions;
  • labor market programs that help people find jobs or enhance their skills or productivity.

Disability is a cross-cutting theme across the practice.

Note that health insurance issues are primarily covered by the Health, Nutrition and Population sector of the World Bank.

The World Bank provides client country governments with knowledge services, technical assistance and financial assistance. In the latter area, there has been over US$4 billion in lending every year over FY09-11 - partly driven by crisis-related demands. The SPL sector now accounts for almost a tenth of Bank lending, with a portfolio of operational work and analytical and advisory activities in every region. The SPL portfolio has remained one of the best performing in the Bank, with 89 percent of projects assessed as satisfactory.

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What is the Bank’s value added in SPL?

The Bank brings four sets of strengths and experience to its SPL support to client countries:

  1. Presence: a global, local and cross-sectoral presence, with the competence to work with public and private sectors, and with middle- and low-income countries;
  2. Knowledge: repository of best practices combining global implementation, research, and learning, as well as the ability to mobilize and connect global knowledge and customize it to local conditions;
  3. Finance: world-class risk management and banking competency, and capability to leverage a strong balance sheet.
  4. Convening power: catalytic and convening power in international arenas.

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Why do you need a new SPL strategy? What is different about this strategy?

In 2001, the World Bank adopted its first strategy for social protection. Building on that work, experience over the last decade, and emerging global needs, the Bank has determined that its support for SPL needs to expand to a broader focus – incorporating risk reduction, poverty alleviation and growth promotion, and thus building resilience and opportunity for individuals and households. The strategy builds on the first strategy to stake out new ground: focusing on solutions through coherent SPL systems; increasing the emphasis on support to the poorest countries and poorest people, including those in the informal sector; and stressing the central role of jobs as pathways to opportunity.

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What is the main direction of the strategy?

With its overarching goals of improving resilience, equity, and opportunity, the strategy is designed to help low-income and middle-income countries move from fragmented approaches to more harmonized SPL systems, making SPL more productive and more inclusive – of the very poor, disabled, people working in the informal sector, and in many cases, women -- and strengthening the focus on knowledge and results. The strategy is structured to be country-tailored, evidence-based, and collaborative.

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Where do Social Safety Nets (SSN) fit in?

Social Safety Nets—also known as social assistance programs – are non-contributory transfer programs often targeted to the poor or vulnerable, such as cash transfers and conditional cash transfers, food-related programs, price and other subsidies, and public works. It should be noted that in the modern-day terminology, social safety nets (also called social assistance in some parts of the world) are permanent programs aimed at chronic and transitory poverty, not temporary measures aimed at bridging shocks.

The SPL strategy is built on the premise that social safety nets are one part of the broader social protection policy, and are complemented by contributory social insurance programs. Safety nets are critical during crisis and shocks, but are also integral elements of long-term social protection programs to protect the chronic poor from destitution, allow them to invest in themselves and their children, and protect all from individual and family-level shocks.

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Who was consulted in the design of the strategy?

To ensure the most effective, transparent, and inclusive design for the strategy, the Bank engaged in global consultations with over 2,000 people worldwide, including members of government, civil society, academia, the private sector, and bilateral and multilateral development agencies. The Bank held 64 face-to-face events worldwide, reaching over 1,700 participants from 66 countries, and discussions with global trade unions, civil society organizations such as Save the Children, Help Age International and the Africa Social Protection Platform, UN agencies including ILO, UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Food Programme (WFP). We also convened an external SPL Advisory Group to marshal advice from academics, policy-makers, and civil society representatives, and used an online forum to engage across a range of stakeholders.

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How will you measure the effectiveness of the strategy’s implementation?

The success of the strategy will be measured through a set of performance indicators reflective of the SPL goals. Results will be regularly monitored using a results framework tracking Bank activities, changes in country outputs and outcomes attributable to Bank engagement, and medium to long-term country progress on sector development outcomes. Indicators will be regularly updated to track progress on results and to highlight areas that need attention. A five year update in 2017 will include a full review of the performance indicators.

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What is the role of partnerships in the strategy and who are the principal partners?

The strategy is based on the premise that effective implementation requires open and mutual collaboration with key partners. At the global level, collaborating with multilateral and bilateral partners, complementing partner-based initiatives such as the UN-based Social Protection Floor Initiative, and drawing on support from collaborative donor arrangements such as the Rapid Social Response program, will be critical. At the country level, coordination among bilateral and multilateral agencies is essential to provide coherent assistance; and the Bank and other agencies need to coordinate to avoid contributing to fragmentation and to help develop SPL programs to scale. Private sector actors are critical partners to generate employment and growth and to develop innovative SPL solutions. Civil society organizations, trade unions and faith-based organizations are key actors in knowing the challenges, shaping opinion and representing excluded groups. The Bank will host an annual stakeholder gathering as a regular venue for engaging stakeholders, gathering lessons learned, and sharing and scaling up knowledge.

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Which are the principal target countries for the new strategy? Does the strategy distinguish between middle-income and low-income countries?

Whereas much of the concentration over the last ten years for the Bank’s work with client countries in social protection has been with middle income countries, the new strategy will also proactively include low income countries and fragile states without losing its presence and expertise on middle income countries. In that process, with the understanding that there is no “one size fits all” solution to social protection, the strategy will help ensure that approaches are appropriate given country circumstances and priorities, including institutions, administrative capacity, social compacts and political economy constraints.

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How will the strategy be funded?

Additional internal World Bank budget is not requested for implementing the strategy, but a central catalyst for implementing a key aspect of the strategy would be the RSR trust fund (see question 12 below) providing small grants to set up basic buildings blocks for building SPL systems (especially in lower-income countries) and global knowledge-sharing in SPL, especially South-South. This funding is not needed for Bank operations, but for countries to meet their SPL goals, notably in IDA countries.

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What other Bank funding instruments are available for countries?

Countries will be able to use lending and grant instruments appropriate to the task at hand, to couple catalytic funding with technical engagement in the design of effective operations. Sector investment loans and grants will continue to be needed, including for investing in administrative sub-systems. Policy-based loans and grants, a major element of World Bank SPL lending, will also continue to support reforms that support more effective SPL approaches and help countries respond to financing needs during downturns. The new program for results (P4R) instrument is particularly well-suited to the system-building agenda, as it takes a results-focused view across programs. Finally, technical assistance, capacity building and analytical work will serve as important complements.

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How does the Rapid Social Response (RSR) program fit into the strategy?

RSR is a central pillar in donor efforts to make a difference in the world’s poorer countries, and to help them prepare for inevitable shocks. The RSR is a program with $61.7 million in multi-donor trust fund resources, which provides catalytic resources in relatively small amounts to help low income countries begin building SPL systems and upgrade their capacity to deal with future crises. To date, RSR resources have been donated by the Russian Federation, Norway and the UK. Programs like the RSR are necessary complements to the sources of funding for SPL available to low-income countries for core SPL activities.

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Which sectors need to be engaged in SPL policy and implementation?

For the SPL strategic approach, multi-sectorality is key, both within the Bank and as a support to cross-sectoral engagement within countries. Effective SPL results require prioritizing coordination across sectors and across a range of actors including global partners, national agents and CSOs. SPL systems are inherently multi-sectoral in nature – sometimes because SPL objectives need other sectors’ instruments to be realized, and sometimes because SPL instruments serve the development objectives of other sectors. As a result, to both meet their own goals and those of their clients as a whole, World Bank teams will have to work with those in other sectors to best realize these important synergies, engaging with other human development sectors (education for access to schools; health for clinics and health insurance); and other sectors (financial sector; agriculture/rural; labor; environment and climate change etc.).

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What is the relationship between the strategy and the findings of the forthcoming World Development Report (WDR) on jobs?

Creating good jobs – higher productivity jobs, with adequate working conditions and access to income protection -- is a multi-sector agenda. The Bank’s MILES framework that aims to coordinate policies across sectors that affect the Macroeconomy, Investment in the business environment, Labor markets, Education and training systems, and Social protection remains valid. The aim of the new SPL strategy is to operationalize this framework and strengthen inter-sectoral collaboration within and outside the Bank. The WDR’s research findings will influence the actual design of policy and operations in this area in the years to come.

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How does the strategy promote gender equality, and how does it incorporate findings from the 2012 WDR on gender equality and development?

Gender is already mainstreamed in the Bank’s SPL work. Based on that current approach, the strategy will help ensure gender equity in outcomes (education, health such as by differentiating payments between girls and boys in CCT programs), and in access (for example, in public work programs which often ensure that a certain percentage of those employed are female). A continued focus will be on instruments which serve to empower women, such as cash transfer payments to women.

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How does the strategy consider equity issues?

The strategy considers equity through its focus on protecting against destitution and promoting equality of opportunity. Social assistance programs (non-contributory transfers also known as safety net programs – including cash transfers and in-kind transfers such as school feeding and targeted food assistance) alleviate poverty and protect against destitution. They also protect poor individuals and families from irreversible and catastrophic losses of human capital (nutrition, health and education), thereby contributing to equality of opportunity.

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How does the strategy address the informal sector?

The strategy places particular emphasis on making social protection and labor more responsive, more productive, and more inclusive of excluded groups, including those in the informal sector; and will provide support for initiatives such as reforms to reduce fragmentation and enhance social insurance coverage to this vulnerable sector.

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How does the strategy address mainstreaming for people with disabilities?

Disability is defined as negative interaction between a person with impairment due to a health condition and his/her environment, including built environment (buildings and roads), transport, information and communication and attitudes. The negative interaction limits participation of persons with impairment in social and economic life. The strategy will complement the Bank’s ongoing support for disabilities in two ways: First, the strategy will help mainstream disability in the Bank’s operational work to ensure that Bank-supported activities do not exclude persons with disability; and second, whenever relevant and in agreement with the respective governments, will include disability-specific activities in SPL operations.

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How will the strategy help alleviate poverty, and address the structural causes of poverty?

While SPL policies and programs directly provide poverty-alleviating transfers to individuals and families, they can also be broadly transformative and reduce poverty by providing a foundation for inclusive growth and social stability. Social protection and labor contributes to growth by: building and protecting human capital; empowering poor individuals to invest or to adopt higher risk-higher return strategies; promoting greater labor market mobility; acting as stabilizers of aggregate demand or enhancing productive assets and infrastructure (for example, through public works); and reducing inequality in society.

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How does the strategy consider the UN-based Social Protection Floor initiative?

As a multi-agency response to SPL issues, the prominent One-UN Social Protection Floor initiative (SPF-I) was adopted by the United Nations (UN) Chief Executives Board in April 2009. The SPL strategy is consistent with the core principles of the SPF-I, particularly through the strategy’s emphasis on building inclusive, productive, responsive SPL programs and systems tailored to country circumstances. The Bank has been a strategic SPF-I partner, and has an important role to play in two ways – first, through helping countries who sign on to the SPF-I to operationalize the concept, and second, through knowledge sharing on the evidence of what works and what does not in different contexts. The Bank has been engaged in extensive dialogue at the global level and partnerships at the country level, and contributes to the initiative through knowledge generation and dissemination, and developing SPL data across countries.

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How does the strategy help countries address Core Labor Standards?

To ensure that people are able to access opportunities, SPL systems will need to be more productivity-oriented, supporting human capital, productivity and longer-term growth in incomes. Enhancing productivity calls for a particular focus on children, as well as on productive jobs for all workers. Upholding core labor standards, including on child labor and equal opportunity at work, is a central area of this broader agenda. Specifically, the policies and programs supported by this strategy work multi-sectorally to ease the multiple determinants of child labor and unequal opportunity at work.

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How does the strategy address vulnerabilities as a result of climate change?

SPL can play a direct role in developing adaptation measures, contributing to the construction of the appropriate infrastructure through public works programs. SPL can also play a role in mitigation, because SPL programs aim to protect all the vulnerable from income shocks and catastrophic losses of human capital, including those who suffered the consequences of climate change (loss of agricultural produce, victims of climate relate disasters).

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