Recent perspectives on social protection focus on risk and vulnerability to poverty and attempt to integrate a wide range of interventions to prevent risk, reduce vulnerability, and ameliorate the impact of risk realisations. Risk and vulnerability contribute to poverty directly, e.g. through the depletion of productive assets from bad weather, but also through the response of poor households to risk: withdrawal of children from school, increased fertility, low productivity specialisation (crops, technology, informality). In addressing risk and vulnerability, social protection interventions have an impact upon poverty reduction. This perspective on social protection and poverty reduction is fast unifying policy among multilateral lending institutions. The extent to which social protection, thus defined, can help reduce chronic poverty has not been adequately investigated. The paper focuses on this issue. To the extent that the factors behind chronic poverty extend beyond the direct and indirect impact of risk on households, social protection can only constitute a partial response , unless it deals with non-risk factors. A hard and fast distinction between transient and chronic poverty, and between the transient and chronic poor, may suggest a bifurcation in antipoverty policy prioritising transient poverty. The paper concludes that new perspectives on social protection can have a role in interrupting risk and vulnerability among the chronic poor.
Chronic Poverty and Social Protection presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 20 pp.