Social Protection

Working towards universal coverage of social protection

Around 800 million people still live in extreme poverty and are estimated to be chronically undernourished. The majority of them live in rural areas, relying mainly on natural resources for their livelihoods, and are particularly vulnerable and exposed to multiple risks.

Social protection has been recognized as a critical strategy for poverty reduction and inclusive growth. Evidence coming from country-level impact evaluations shows that social protection, when integrated in broader rural development strategies, can generate a broad range of impacts: boosting economic growth; enhancing the productivity of families; achieving food security and nutrition, and building the resilience of poor rural families.

The expansion of social protection systems is one of the targets to end poverty under the 2030 Agenda. Countries have committed to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable. However, more than 70 percent of the global population today is still not covered by social protection and the majority of these people live in rural settings.

FAO, together with partners, is advocating for the expansion of social protection to effectively reach men and women living in rural areas and to promote linkages between social protection and agriculture, food security, nutrition, natural resource management, decent rural employment and resilience building.

FAO is committed to maximize the impact of social protection by building and strengthening nationally owned social protection systems that are integrated in broader livelihood promotion and rural development strategies.

FAO’s key contribution is to build the economic case for the expansion of social protection programmes. The economic case has focused on highlighting the role of social protection not only as a social policy tool, but also as a strategic investment to enhance the economic and productive potential of the poor.

FAO and its partners' impact evaluations, embedded in national policy processes, have contributed to strengthening the case for scale-up: building the credibility of an emerging sector, addressing public misconceptions linked to cash transfers, while supporting learning around programme design and implementation.

The economic case is based on three core pillars. FAO contributes mainly to unleashing the economic potential of the poor and stimulating local economic growth.

Human Capital Development Economic Potential of the Poor Stimulating Local Growth
Cash transfers reduce the economic barriers to access education, nutrition and health services, contribute to food security and dietary diversity, prevent child labour as well as address the economic and social drivers of HIV risk among adolescents. Cash transfer programmes contribute to enhancing the future productivity and employability of today’s children and adolescents, once they reach working age. In addition to social impacts, access to predictable and regular transfers enhances the economic and productive capacity of even the poorest and most vulnerable people, supporting the ownership of assets, investment in more productive activities, improved risk management capacities and empowerment of communities. Benefits expand beyond direct programme beneficiaries, reaching the wide community and generating multiplier impacts in the local economy.