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Australia’s development program

Protecting women and girls and the most vulnerable

By design, social assistance transfers reach the most vulnerable people, either through poverty targeting (providing assistance to the poorest individuals or families) or by focusing on vulnerable groups (most commonly children, the elderly and people with disabilities). Where they exist, governments have expanded and topped up these programs, recognising that these groups will be hit hardest by the current crisis.

The precarious prosperity of millions of workers is threatened by job losses and economic downturn. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the vulnerability of the ‘missing middle’ – people who are not poor enough to previously have qualified for income support, but who lack coverage through insurance schemes that usually come from formal work. Women and people and with disabilities are disproportionally represented in this informal workforce. Many countries have rapidly established new social protection measures for this group.

Social protection programs are often focused on women. They can protect women and girls from the effects of the crisis, while challenging underlying gender inequities, for example by giving women greater control of household finances and helping girls to attend school. Social protection programs can be linked with other support services, including to address family violence, which has been shown to be on the rise as the result of COVID-19.

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