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Social protection for development: a review of definitions


  • Brunori, Paolo
  • O'Reilly, Marie


There is a growing recognition that poverty and deprivation in developing countries cannot be defeated solely by the promotion of economic growth. Specific interventions, targeting the most vulnerable sectors of the population, are increasingly considered as necessary complements to more traditional pro-growth policies, especially in the face of unstable global socio- economic scenarios. Social protection is often considered a double-dividend policy for development: it is an effective input for economic growth and it directly reduces poverty by targeting vulnerable households. However, the definition of social protection can be vague and the array of varying definitions can lead to confusion. Social protection has been framed as a policy response to risk, as a human right, and as an agenda for livelihood building. Nonetheless, social protection is generally described as the set of public and private mechanisms that protect and prevent individuals and households from suffering the worst consequences of shocks and stresses. Its novelty lies in its additional attempt to promote resilient livelihoods. However, almost any public intervention could be considered more or less directly part of the social protection system. In this perspective, education policy, pension systems, health care, and many other development policies will fall under a very vague definition of social protection. Such a definition would capture the complex system of linkages between social protection and all other social welfare components, but would hamper our understanding of the specificity of social protection in fighting poverty and promoting economic growth. In what follows we review and discuss the most influential definitions of social protection in the framework of development and aid policies and we explain how the operational definition of social protection has been conceived in the European Report on Development.

Suggested Citation

  • Brunori, Paolo & O'Reilly, Marie, 2010. "Social protection for development: a review of definitions," MPRA Paper 29495, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:29495

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patrick Guillaumont, 2009. "An Economic Vulnerability Index: Its Design and Use for International Development Policy," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(3), pages 193-228.
    2. Sam Hickey, 2007. "Conceptualising the Politics of Social Protection in Africa," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series 0407, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    3. Frank Ellis, 1998. "Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 1-38.
    4. Ferreira , Francisco H.G. & Robalino, David, 2010. "Social protection in Latin America : achievements and limitations," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5305, The World Bank.
    5. Haddad, Lawrence James & Zeller, Manfred, 1996. "How can safety nets do more with less?," FCND discussion papers 16, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Alwang, Jeffrey & Siegel, Paul B. & Jorgensen, Steen L., 2001. "Vulnerability : a view from different disciplines," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 23304, The World Bank.
    7. Robert Holzmann & Steen Jørgensen, 2001. "Social Risk Management: A New Conceptual Framework for Social Protection, and Beyond," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 8(4), pages 529-556, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Julio J. Guzman, 2016. "Social protection during recessions: evidence from Chile," Journal of Economic Policy Reform, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(4), pages 348-368, October.
    2. Jonathan Sibley & Alex Ivaschenko & Kerry Pagau & Tom Tanhchareun, 2014. "The New Ireland Social Pension," World Bank Other Operational Studies 22525, The World Bank.

    More about this item


    Social protecion; economic development;

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs

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