Can social protection and labour programmes contribute to social inclusion? Evidence from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal

Briefing papers
May 2014

Discussions around the post-2015 development goals and the proposed ‘leave no-one behind’ principle have revived global interest in inequality and the role of social protection in promoting social inclusion. But is there too much emphasis on the potential of social protection alone to address broader goals of equity, social justice and empowerment? Can social protection tackle the wider structural drivers that perpetuate poverty and inequality?

This ODI Briefing discusses the answers to these questions, drawing on primary ODI research from four South Asian countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal – which examined whether social protection and labour programmes can tackle the drivers of social exclusion that generate poverty.

Policy recommendations:

  • Social protection and labour programmes can be designed and implemented to tackle the outcomes and drivers of social exclusion.

  • A recognition of the context-specific factors that drive social exclusion needs to be fed into programme objectives, design and implementation.

  • The design of social protection and labour programmes must start with social and institutional analysis to assess the factors that affect people’s access to resources, services and social and economic opportunities and their exclusion or inclusion. A social exclusion framework provides a useful tool for such analysis.

  • The objectives and nature of current social protection and labour instruments may limit their potential impact on social exclusion, making it vital to link interventions with other policies and initiatives – in the social sectors and beyond – to address the drivers of exclusion.