Blog SASPEN INSIGHTS

The Blog in the Network – SASPEN INSIGHTS

Saspen insights2

You can find the blog SASPEN INSIGHTS by clicking here.

The Southern African Social Protection Experts Network (SASPEN) brings together stakeholders, activists and academics under the goal of promoting social protection in the SADC region and beyond. Its main structure is an interactive web portal which allows web based exchange and communication between participants. Our new blog SASPEN INSIGHTS features commentaries, debate contributions and essays by the SASPEN experts.

SASPEN INSIGHTS is an opinion blog hosted on the SASPEN website at saspen.org/blog which features essays on recent developments, underlying political currents and overarching frameworks on social protection by participants of the SASPEN network.

SASPEN INSIGHTS does not represent SASPEN or SASPEN’s opinion, but that of the respective authors only. As such, it is hoped to facilitate further exchange and debate among the network.

Call for Contributions

You can participate in the blog, as commenter and discussant, but even more so as featured blogger, and we very much hope that you will!

Terms of Reference

Blog features should pertain to the general working field of SASPEN according to the Terms of Reference, and particularly reflect views and reflections on:

  • Politics of Social Protection
  • Policy developments and actual implementation
  • Insights and preliminary findings from original research.

While blog entries may be on general social protection issues, focus on the SADC region or countries within the region is encouraged.

We would like to invite all participants of the network to submit essays to SASPEN INSIGHTS. Blog features will be copy-edited by the Network Secretariat and only then may blog pieces be posted by the authors. To this end, the authors need to create usernames in their own, real and full name on saspen.org/blog (different from the login-platform saspen.org/network, thus creating a second login username). This requirement is meant to ensure opinions are registered as individual opinions and not as such of SASPEN. In fact, as we hope to facilitate debate, we fully expect divergent opinions. Blog features will be open to public debate by the blog’s commentary function (subject to moderation by SASPEN Secretariat) and authors are encouraged to continue the debate with commenters on the same forum.

Blog features published carry no remuneration. The features are published in full name and credit and by posting the authors accept the terms and conditions contained in the terms of reference and grant SASPEN permission to reproduce the blog postings and commentaries in print or other media under public domain unless revoked in writing to Network Secretariat.

Please contact Network Secretariat to submit features or discuss possible contributions.

The Blog SASPEN INSIGHTS was launched on May 22nd, 2014.



What about Resilience? New Blog by Luise Steinwachs on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In What about resilience? Luise Steinwachs probes into the increasingly popular concept of resilience. Does it empower the poor by helping them graduate poverty or burden them by shifting the responsibility for creating better livelihood onto them?

“What about resilience?

Lately, I have made the observation that the term or concept of “resilience” is slowly occupying a prominent position in the development discourse. Also in the context of disaster risk reduction (e.g. UNDP “Climate Resistant Social Protection”) and even the broader discussion on social protection (e.g. “Resilience, Equity, and Opportunity” – The World Bank Social Protection and Labour Strategy 2012 – 2020), resilience is more or less everywhere (e.g. IDS “Adaptive Social Protection”)

What I am missing is the critical discussion around this concept.”

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Is targeting ethical? – new blog post by Stephen Devereux on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Is targeting ethical? Stephen Devereux argues in favor of redistribution by targeting transfers based on the need principle and giving the poorer more to reduce the gap between poor and affluent, thereby challenging universal income transfers that give lump sums to everyone regardless of need.

“Is targeting ethical?

At the CSDA-FES symposium ‘The principles and practice of social protection’ in Johannesburg earlier this month I asked the following question:

Some people believe that higher earners should get larger old age pensions when they retire, because they have contributed more, but others argue that lower earners should get larger pensions, because they are in greater need. Which of these three statements comes closest to your view?

Higher earners should get more
High and low earners should get the same amount
Lower earners should get more.”

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Turning citizens into duty-bearers – Marianne S Ulriksen’s new blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Human Rights Based Approach with a Twist: Turning citizens into duty-bearers Marianne S Ulriksen challenges the common notion of citizens as rights-holders and states as duty-bearers. She argues that this binary view masks the range of contributions that poor citizens make to the commmon good on a daily basis. They are not merely beneficiaries but serve the community through informal jobs, unpaid care work, payment of VAT, volunteer community work and much more. In recognising this two-way relationship resides the chance to increase poor citizens’ power and control over their own opportunities.

“Human Rights Based Approach with a Twist: Turning citizens into duty-bearers

Human rights have done us good. Above all, the approach highlights the plight of the least advantaged and provides a normative framework advocating that we all – no matter race, colour, gender identity, disability, creed, and age – have a right to dignified and decent lives. A lot has been written about human rights, but the main mantra seems to be this: individuals are rights-holders who inherently hold entitlements, while the state is the duty-bearer who is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil human rights. Development efforts then go towards building the capacities of individuals and states to take up their respective roles as rights-holders and duty-bearers. In terms of social protection, individuals can – and should – claim their rights to social protection, and the state must deliver.”

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Is Universal Basic Income Viable? – New blog post on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Universal Basic Income in Southern Africa – is it a viable alternative? Taku Fundira compares universal basic income grants in Southern Africa with targeted social cash transfers such as the Social Support Grant in Malawi. He argues that targeting has high administrative costs, is susceptible to corruption, and poses ethical problems, whereas universal grants, are more efficient, transparent and even affordable.

“Universal Basic Income in Southern Africa – is it a viable alternative?

Social cash transfers are emerging in many developing countries as an important and key social protection measure to tackling poverty and vulnerability. For example, evidence from countries such as India, Brazil, and closer to home pilots in Malawi, Namibia and Zambia has shown that social cash transfers have the ability to help alleviate the worst destitution currently faced by millions of poor people, and can contribute to pro-poor growth by providing an effective risk management tool, by supporting human capital development and by empowering poor households to lift themselves out of poverty. In rolling out these programmes however, targeting has been the preferred approach in most instances.”

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Enter Flexibility in the Social Protection Landscape – New blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Enter Flexibility: how will it change the social protection landscape? Sophie Plagerson asks about the potentially positive effects of flexible labour markets. Contrary to received wisdom she points out that the flexibility and individualisation of employment observable in the advanced economies offers new perspectives for self-promotion and self-determination. But what does this imply for developing countries, is it a trend reserved for technology-rich, highly specialised economies? Southern Africa also sees increasing flexibility, which above all poses the question of how social protection programmes can be adapted to account for this reality.

“Enter Flexibility: how will it change the social protection landscape?

Flexibility has not always been framed as a key dimension of dignified work. Security, stability and steady wage rises have been rather viewed as attractive attributes of formal full-time employment. Having a good job traditionally equated to being an employee of a good company. Flexibility seems perhaps too closely related to insecurity, a pejorative characteristic of informal and non-standard employment. The positives of flexibility (to the employee) have more often been traded in as collateral for the sake of a secure job.”

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Are cash transfers taxing the state? – New Blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Are cash transfers taxing the state or should the state be taxing transfers? Sophie Plagerson discusses the implications of the separation between tax-payers and grant-recipients prevalent in much of Southern Africa. Asking “How can social policy avoid the perceived and persistent rift between welfare recipients and taxpayers?”, she raises the possibility of introducing and taxing broad-based income grants. Although she points to a number of problems with this model, what remains is the need to review the linkages between social protection and fiscal policy – with the ultimate aim to create cohesive and productive societies and accountable states.

“Are cash transfers taxing the state or should the state be taxing transfers?

Social protection measures are often dogged by claims that they are ‘taxing’ the state. They may be viewed as a drain on the national budgets, ploughing resources into unproductive avenues. In the same vein, recipients of cash transfers can be labelled as ‘takers’ from tax-paying ‘givers’. This is clearly a rather narrow view of social protection, which ignores the evidence on the productive nature of investment in cash transfers. It also fails to take into account the possibility that circumstances may place ‘givers’ in the seat of ‘takers’ at a moment’s notice.”

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“Inequality and the Need for Solidarity” – New Blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Social change through the lens of inequality: the need for solidarity Taku Fundira highlights the importance of transformative social policies for a reduction in inequality and poverty. He points out that compared to 30 years ago inequality has increased in most countries and that governments and socities are hence beginning to respond. To reverse this trend, concerted efforts and transformative state interventions are necessary, as well as the involvement of the middle classes – which, however, are largely lacking in most African countries. To mobilise broad-based efforts at reducing inequality requires a hightened sense of solidarity.

“Social change through the lens of inequality: the need for solidarity

Rising poverty, unemployment and lately inequality are stubbornly becoming a thorn in the eye and are characteristic of most African countries. A recent Oxfam Report on Inequality – “Even it up” notes that the gap between rich and poor is widening across the globe and in 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago. The stark realities of inequality have become too visible not to notice to an extent that people and governments are starting to respond. There is a realisation that inequality is bad for society and is associated with diminished levels of physical and mental health, child well-being, educational achievement, social mobility, trust, and community life.”

You can read the full post here and join the discussion with the author and the community.

The opinion blog SASPEN INSIGHTS features essays on recent developments, underlying political currents and overarching frameworks on social protection. It is open for debate and all are invited to join the discussion.

“If you aim for it, you might miss it” – New blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In “If you aim for it, you might miss it”: targeting poverty is not the best way to reduce poverty Sophie Plagerson argues that targeting social protection and cash transfers at the poorest is neither financially necessary, nor fair, nor likely to be effective in producing socio-economic change. This is the message she brought home from a conference featuring Prof Thandika Mkandawire and Prof Jimi Adesina, who both underlined that pro-poor policies often turn out to be poor policies.

““If you aim for it, you might miss it”: targeting poverty is not the best way to reduce poverty

It is sometimes argued that the best route to happiness and success may not be through their intentional pursuit. In a somewhat similar way, the route to effective poverty reduction, may not involve the direct targeting of poverty.

This was one of the highlights that I came home with from the PASGR conference (Nairobi, 12-13 November) on ‘Social Protection in Africa’ that I just attended.”

You can read the full post here and share your thoughts with the author and the community.

The opinion blog SASPEN INSIGHTS features essays on recent developments, underlying political currents and overarching frameworks on social protection. It is open for debate and all are invited to join the discussion.

Can human rights be delivered progressively? New Blog Post on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN INSIGHTS! In Does progressive realisation impact on the human rights approach to social protection? Taku Fundira discusses the pros and cons of progressive approaches to social protection coverage. While gradually scaling up from basic coverage for the most vulnerable towards more broad-based coverage might be an attractive option in countries with limited state budgets, it often becomes an end solution rather than a temporary one. Taking a human rights approach to social protection seriously would instead acknowledge every citizen’s entitlement to social security.

“Does progressive realisation impact on the human rights approach to social protection?

The debate about the realisation of socio-economic rights (SERs) to social protection rages on. Furthermore, the increasing use of targeting in the roll-out of social protection programmes has perhaps been one of the most significant additions to the social development agenda of late.

For Africa, the increasing importance of social protection as a means to alleviate poverty needs no further emphasis and hence the importance of unpacking barriers to the roll out of universal access to SERs.”

You can read the full post here and share your thoughts with the author and the community.

The opinion blog SASPEN INSIGHTS features essays on recent developments, underlying political currents and overarching frameworks on social protection. It is open for debate and all are invited to join the discussion.

No to conditionalities, yes to recognizing citizens’ contributions – New Blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new blog piece is out on SASPEN Insights! In No to conditionalities, yes to recognizing citizens’ contributions, Marianne S. Ulriksen calls for acknowledgement of informal workers’ contributions to society. She argues that social protection is often viewed as a service deserved only by those that can offer something in return, hence also the popularity of public works programmes. However, according to the author, social protection is meant to provide security to those unable to contribute at a certain time in their lives and should be viewed in a generalised exchange perspective, where citizens contribute when they are able to, and derive benefits in times of need.

“No to conditionalities, yes to recognizing citizens’ contributions

In debates on who deserves social protection, nothing is more controversial than how best to assist the able-bodied working-age population. Many find it unacceptable that capable adults should receive ‘hand-outs’ because they are destitute. At the very least, many argue, they must do something to deserve income assistance. Public works programmes are often argued to be the best available social assistance schemes to address the plight of vulnerable households with at least one able-bodied member. Simply, assistance is provided on the condition that the beneficiary does some work.”

Read the full post here and share your views with the author and the community.

The opinion blog SASPEN INSIGHTS features essays on recent developments, underlying political currents and overarching frameworks on social protection. It is open for debate and all are invited to join the discussion.

Poor, poorest, poorer: Inequality is back! New blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new article has been published in the blog SASPEN Insights! In Poor, poorest, poorer: Inequality is Back!, Sophie Plagerson observes that the English translation of Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st century” has reawoken academic interest on inequality. However, Plagerson argues that this intereset has yet to reach the discussions on social protection. One reason for such a lack of interest on income inequality in developing countries may be that social protection is frequently discussed within the framework of global poverty relief and aid – helping from a distance.

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Trade two years added life expectancy for ten years extra working life? New blog entry on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new SASPEN INSIGHTS Blog is out! In Trade two years added life expectancy for ten years extra working life? Retirement age reforms in Zambia, Anna Wolkenhauer discusses the pros and cons of the proposed retirement age reform in Zambia. She argues that the main point made in favour of the reform, namely the increase in life expectancy, does not hold once you disaggregate the data. For elderly citizens the health situation and hence life expectancy have almost stagnated for the past 20 years. She posits that what should currently be discussed in Zambia is the social protection situation of the aged, rather than how to prolong their working life. ———- Please continue reading

Public Works Social Protection or Scapegoat? New Blog on SASPEN INSIGHTS

A new SASPEN INSIGHTS Blog is out! In Why public work isn’t social protection, but just a scapegoat, Marianne Ulriksen challenges the prominent trend to combat under- and unemployment through public works schemes. She argues that while public works may be a tool in employment creation, it should not substitute the need for income security in times of unemployment as provided for by the right to social security. Asks Dr Ulriksen, “If you must do poorly paid work with little training (as is the general trend of PWPs) in order to survive, how will you be able to get proper training and look for a ‘real’ job? And isn’t PWPs just too convenient for governments?” ———- Please continue reading

Social Protection as Charity or Justice? New blog entry on SASPEN Insights

A new SASPEN INSIGHTS Blog is out! In Charity or Justice?, Sophie Plagerson reminds us of the important difference between understanding social protection either as charity or as justice. The giver-receiver relationship implied is markedly different, and is also still under negotiation in much of Southern Africa. Her discussion also casts a critical light on the role of donors: which long-term contribution can pilot programmes really make to institutionalising the right to social protection? ———- Please continue reading

Comparing Apples with Oranges – New blog entry on SASPEN INSIGHTS!

A new SASPEN INSIGHTS Blog is out! In ‘Comparing oranges with apples’, Marianne Ulriksen (University of Johannesburg), discusses the World Bank’s 2014 report ‘Poverty and Investing in People: The New Role of Safety Nets in Africa”. She cautions about its data basis and comparisons, for data can only be useful if it is collected and contextualised appropriately. ———- Please continue reading

Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection – New Blog entry on SASPEN INSIGHTS!

A new SASPEN INSIGHTS blog is out! In Some thoughts on a rights based approach to social protection Taku Fundira of SPII makes a case for a rights-based and universal social protection policy and challenges conditionality of benefits, targeting and stigma as constraints on a human right. ———- Please continue reading

Couch or Potato? – New blog entry on SASPEN INSIGHTS!

SASPEN INSIGHTS has been recently launched to foster debate within SASPEN. The second blog post came out today!

In Couch or potato? Reflections on the ethics of public policy research Sophie Plagerson (University of Johannesburg) critically engages with the ‘couch potato’ rhetoric around unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits have a hard stand in Southern Africa and are usually discredited as creating dependency. But should unemployed be pushed to find jobs more quickly while facing complete loss of income, or be allowed to take 2 extra weeks while being able to feed their families? ———- Please continue reading

Poverty Reduction or Income Security for All? – New Blog SASPEN INSIGHTS launched

The new Social Protection blog SASPEN INSIGHTS has been launched today.

Dr Ulriksen inquires what social protection ultimately is about: Poverty Reduction or Income Security for All? ———- Please continue reading

New Blog Announced: SASPEN INSIGHTS

SASPEN has announced a new blog: SASPEN INSIGHTS.

Saspen insights2

It will feature commentaries, debate contributions and essays by SASPEN experts on what is happening on the ground, political undercurrents and overarching developments. It does not represent SASPEN or SASPEN’s opinion, but that of the respective authors only. As such, it is hoped to facilitate further exchange and debate among the network. Read more