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Social exclusion and access to social protection schemes

Summary of publication

There is a growing recognition that social protection schemes can help tackle poverty, increase resilience to reduce the likelihood of falling into poverty, transform lives by offering greater independence to the most vulnerable members of society, enable recipients to engage more actively in the labour market, and strengthen the social contract between citizens and government. This has been accompanied by significant expansion in the coverage of formal social protection schemes across many developing countries, with Brazil, China and South Africa leading the way.

However, exclusion from social protection schemes remains a significant challenge. It reduces the efficiency and impact of social protection schemes, limiting their value for money, while also, potentially exacerbating patterns of social exclusion and discrimination, which can further perpetuate disadvantage.

Exclusion is largely a function of the coverage of social protection schemes. Schemes with low coverage tend to exclude a high proportion of their target group. But eligible people are excluded from social protection schemes for multiple and complex reasons, which include policy decisions on coverage and budgets, challenges caused by scheme design and implementation, and differing capabilities of people to access schemes and overcome barriers to inclusion. Exclusion also happens during the payment of transfers and enforcement of conditions.

This study examines the causes of exclusion from social protection schemes, and potential strategies to address them. It is based on a review of relevant literature, interviews with researchers and program implementers in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa and Uganda, and the experience of the research team who have worked on social protection across many countries.

Full publication

Last Updated: 13 July 2016
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