Social protection is one of the top policy priorities of developing countries, where access to social security has been traditionally linked to formal employment. Often, only workers legally registered by their employers and paying dues to a social security administration, were eligible for these programs. Because most developing countries are characterized by high levels of unregistered employment, social security access has been the privilege of a few. Several countries started to address these gaps in social insurance coverage by adding non-contributory social protection, covering those outside the traditional system. As a result, the social protection regime in most developing countries operates as a dual system with some form of contributory benefits availed to those in the formal sector, on the one hand, and targeted programs and interventions for the very poor on the other.

Over the past 15 years, with growing budgets and a broad acceptance of the impact of cash transfers on reducing poverty, Latin America saw a rapid expansion of cash transfers programs (mostly Conditional Cash Transfers – CCTs – reaching approximately 20% of the region’s population) and, more recently, non-contributory pension schemes. This trend was then followed by African and Asian countries.

This expansion of the social protection net has created higher levels of protection against risks, and increased welfare. However, policy debates have emerged that focus on the impact of social protection on labour supply. Critics argue that social grants generate dependence and disincentives to work. The questions are numerous. What does evidence say about the impact of social grants on labour markets? What is the potential of social grants to support economic inclusion of beneficiaries’ households? What other complementary interventions are needed? How can governments “add-value” to current programs to help improve households productive capacities? What are the tensions between poverty alleviation and productive development programs? Until recently, a lack of rigorous research has been available inform these debates and address these challenges.

To address these questions, Canada´s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the UNDP International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) and the Colombian Think Tank Fedesarrollo have organized a seminar to discuss what is known and knowledge gaps on social protection and its linkages to jobs, entrepreneurship and women’s economic empowerment. The event will be held in celebration of the IPC-IG’s 10 year anniversary, at the IPEA Headquarters in Brasilia from September 10th to the 11th

This International Seminar will build on the policy-oriented research supported by IDRC’s Supporting Inclusive Growth Programme. The seminar will provide a space for researchers and policymakers to take stock of recent research findings and lessons learnt and discuss policy recommendations. The results of the seminar will be synthesized in a report.  A “Poverty in Focus” publication will also be launched in 2015 highlighting findings from the research and debates held during the seminar.

All materials and outputs will be made available through this website under the resources section.