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Informal social protection in Pacific Island countries—strengths and weaknesses

Summary of publication

The received wisdom that traditional kinship or clan-based social safety nets continue to provide a sufficient standard of living for all community members in Pacific Island countries, is increasingly challenged.

This briefing paper shows that traditional safety nets do not entirely avert poverty and social exclusion, and that 'holes in the safety net' are observable. Informal social protection is eroded by diminishing flexibility in land allocation, increasing reliance on markets, rising overall poverty ("too poor to practice reciprocity"), weakening commitment to social obligations, greater inequality, and the growth of urban settlements where clan identities are diluted.

It is sometimes argued that the provision of formal social transfers such as pensions or child support grants merely substitutes for, or undermines, traditional safety nets. However, there is scant evidence worldwide for this effect.

Formal social transfers can complement traditional provision by addressing important gaps, for example by providing consistent and reliable coverage of the weakest members of society such as older persons, young children and people with disabilities.

Full publication

Last Updated: 4 October 2016
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