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Social Protection

In 2013, social protection helped lift 150 million people out of extreme poverty. However, seventy percent of the world population, particularly in rural areas, lack social protection coverage.

Enhancing social protection systems to reduce poverty and end hunger.

Social protection can reduce extreme poverty and enhance food security, but also increase household resilience in times of crisis, and stimulate beneficiaries to invest in agricultural production. Measures include social assistance (cash or in-kind transfers, food or cash for work programmes, school feeding, food vouchers), social insurance (health insurance cover, pension schemes) and labour market programs (unemployment benefits).

FAO works with governments and partners to incorporate social protection into national rural development policies, food security and nutrition strategies and investment plans. FAO emphasises the critical importance of extending social protection (particularly social assistance schemes) into rural areas, and supports governments in designing, implementing and assessing systems focused on benefitting the rural poor.

Key policy messages

·        Social protection must be seen as an investment and not as a cost. Most countries, even the poorest, can afford social protection programmes. Well-designed and implemented social protection schemes not only generate multiple productive and social impacts but can boost local economic growth.

·        Social protection programmes reduce poverty, food insecurity and can help address the social and economic dimensions of malnutrition. Measures can allow poor households to increase and diversify their food consumption, often through increasing their own production.

·        Among the variety of social protection schemes, social assistance programs are particularly needed and coverage must be expanded in order to systematically reach the large shares of poor people living in rural areas. Social protection schemes can also directly support and improve agricultural livelihoods by alleviating credit, savings and liquidity constraints.

·        Social protection benefits, provided on a stable basis and at regular and predictable intervals, contribute to higher incomes and food security not only by ensuring increases in consumption, but by enhancing a household’s ability to produce food and invest in agricultural activities. Measures can enhance the capacity of households and communities to cope with, respond to and withstand natural and man-made disasters, including those related to climate change.

·        Despite the critical impacts of social protection, particularly in its protective role, social protection by itself may not be enough to sustainably move people out of poverty. It will be most effective when embedded in multi-sector strategies that focus on agricultural development, food and nutrition security, natural resource management and rural poverty reduction. Evidence has shown that where Ministries, local organizations and partners work together to ensure coherence and compatibility between policies, the positive benefits from social protection are far greater.

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