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The impact of the global financial crisis on social protection in developing countries


  • The developing-country experiences cited in this article are based on ten country case studies carried out by the ODI from January to March 2009, which examined the impact of the financial crisis on social protection policy (te Velde et al., 2009).

Dr. Anna McCord, Research Fellow, Social Protection Programme, Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, United Kingdom. Email:


The global financial crisis has had a devastating effect on poverty levels in developing countries, and the social protection response to date, in the form of social assistance, has been limited, constrained by the weak systems and low coverage of pre-existing provision. Developing countries have struggled to honour pre-crisis social protection policy commitments due to declining revenues, and in this context the potential for expanding coverage to assist those further impoverished and the “new poor” are remote. Despite the expansionary fiscal stance adopted by many developing countries, the focus of policy responses to the crisis has been on protecting and stimulating growth. The focus has not been on social protection provision to assist the poor directly. Where social protection interventions have been made they have, in many cases, been limited to ad hoc and often regressive interventions such as generalized food or fuel subsidies, rather than more systemic and pro-poor interventions. However, there may be some scope for optimism, as the crisis has stimulated a number of initiatives to promote donor coordination and programming coherence, which may result in improvements in the efficiency and impact of future social protection programming.