Social protection systems: GSDRC Professional Development Reading Pack No. 49

This reading pack provide an introduction to the main issues and debates


A social protection system, in an international development context, is broadly understood to be an integrated national portfolio of interventions which aims to serve four basic functions for households and individuals: protection of a minimum standard of living, prevention of deprivation through increasing resilience to shocks, and promotion of sustainable livelihood improvements. At a societal level, it may aim to bring about transformation towards improved equity, reduced exclusion and realization of the human right to social security. Social protection systems can provide one of the most direct means for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal SDG1 (‘to end poverty in all its forms everywhere’), with a potential to contribute to several other SDGs too.

Common system components are social assistance (non-contributory transfers in cash or kind to individuals or households in need), social insurance (contributory schemes providing compensatory support in the event of contingencies such as illness, injury, disability, death of a spouse or parent, unemployment and old age), and social care services for those facing social risks such as violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and social exclusion. Labour market programmes may also be included, whether active (promoting labour market participation) or passive (ensuring minimum employment standards).


White, P. (2016). Social protection systems. GSDRC Professional Development Reading Pack no. 49. Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham. 3pp

Social protection systems: GSDRC Professional Development Reading Pack No. 49

Published 1 July 2016