Social Protection

Investing in shock-responsive social protection systems builds resilience by helping citizens mitigate shocks and escape poverty. Social protection is concerned with protecting and helping those who are poor, vulnerable, marginalized or dealing with risks.

woman holding goat


Social protection systems are typically comprised of four components:

  • Protection: social assistance or as non-contributory consumption smoothing assistance (i.e., cash or food transfers)
  • Prevention: social insurance or instruments that prevent the loss of income and assets (i.e., insurance, pensions, etc.)
  • Promotion: labor market interventions such as employment generation and livelihood promotion, as well as investments in human capital
  • Transformation: seeks to understand structural causes and drivers of vulnerability and address these systematically—and promotes agency, empowerment, social accountability, and social cohesion.

Momentum has been growing around the idea of making social protection more shock responsive and more closely linked to humanitarian response efforts. Doing so involves considering what the right balance is for humanitarian and development action in different places.


A growing body of research shows the importance of safety nets in reducing household vulnerability. This is especially true when combining cash transfers with support to strengthen other resilience capacities, such as access to financial services and resilient livelihood pathways. When Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) and non-PSNP households in Ethiopia following a drought were compared, results showed PSNP households did better in absorbing the initial impact of the shock on their food security. PSNP households also did better in recovery to pre-drought food security status. Households with more than one hectare of land fared even better. Non-PSNP households with less than one hectare of land struggled. They were the most vulnerable to the initial impact of drought. They also had the slowest recovery.

More Resources