This policy brief discusses:
- Social assistance is critical to counter the insecurity and
vulnerability experienced by chronically poor people. Evidence shows
that as well as preventing people from sliding into poverty, social
assistance supports human development, helps people to access
opportunities to exit poverty, and interrupts the intergenerational
transmission of poverty.
- An obstacle to progress on social assistance involves arguments around
the ‘dependency syndrome’ – concerns about recipients becoming
permanently dependent on ‘handouts’ and losing any inclination to
improve their circumstances as a result of it. An associated
assumption is that if poor people are given social assistance they
will inevitably ‘waste’ it on negative purchases (e.g. alcohol), as
opposed to using it constructively.
- Concerns around the propensity for social assistance to induce
‘dependency’ in Southern countries are largely based on anecdotal
evidence, rather than empirical realities.
- Empirical research shows that social assistance supports savings,
human capital development, investment, and enterprise; improves
labour-market participation and reduces dependence on adverse
contractual employment arrangements; and far from crowding out
informal systems of support, it can help improve social networks and
support private (informal) forms of protection
- Evidence from the global South overwhelmingly finds that social
assistance is affordable, that recipients make rational choices to
improve their circumstances, and that social assistance reduces
dependency in the long-term. In other words, social assistance is an
important response to chronic poverty.
- Children overall tend to be the main beneficiaries of social transfers
– not just child benefit.
Chronic Poverty Research Centre, London, UK. CPRC Policy Brief 22, 8 pp.
Social assistance and the ‘dependency syndrome’. CPRC Policy Brief No. 22.