If tackling gender discrimination ‘makes development and economic sense’, as the World Bank suggests, why is social protection so often gender-blind? Social protection may be high on the policy agenda in international development circles, but the way it plays out in practice at national and local level is deeply political, with significant consequences for gender relations and gender-related outcomes. While there is a robust body of evidence on the different ways in which women and men experience poverty and vulnerability, this is seldom reflected systematically in social protection strategies, policies or programmes.
This briefing paper explores the political economy of social protection and its effects on gender relations. It draws on multi-country research by ODI and national partners funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). It weaves together findings from interviews with key players, household surveys, focus group discussions and life histories with men, women and children across the lifecycle in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Rather than focus exclusively on cash and asset transfers, our research covers other social assistance instruments such as public works schemes and subsidy programmes for the poor.