Overview of Australia's assistance for social protection

Social protection is one of the key responses to reducing poverty and supporting inclusive economic growth.

Social protection can take the form of cash and food transfers, an income generating asset (such as livestock), cash-for-work or other transfers. In some cases these transfers are linked to conditions requiring things like school attendance or accessing child health services.

These transfers help unlock the economic potential of the poorest. They assist the poor to purchase enough food to be able to work hard, obtain transport to access work opportunities and purchase assets to invest in income generating activities. Australia's support involves assisting partner governments to improve the effectiveness of their own spending on these social protection programs.

Social protection also contributes to inclusive growth. Social protection helps develop a stable and prosperous economy, and build a productive middle class. There is overwhelming evidence that effective social protection leads to increased household productivity and has positive impacts on labour market participation.

Australia's response

Social protection is a relatively new space for the Australian aid program, but one which is growing in importance for the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia's approach is outlined in the Strategy for Australia's Aid Investments in Social Protection.

This strategy guides our official aid expenditure in social protection, and supports our program teams to make informed investment choices in this area.

Australia's approach predominantly involves leveraging partner governments' own funding to improve social protection for the poor and vulnerable, contributing to human development and economic growth outcomes.

We currently work in economic partnership with a number of governments in the Indo-Pacific region (including Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Laos and Timor-Leste) to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and reach of their systems.

Australia has also set up the Social Protection Hub, based in Canberra and Jakarta, which facilitates regional dialogue and generates new knowledge on social protection in the Indo-Pacific. For further information on the Hub, please visit the social protection initiatives page.

How we give aid

In Indonesia, we're working closely with reformers in government to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Indonesia's social protection system, which in 2015 covered nearly 994 million poor Indonesians.

In the Philippines we have helped the government expand its national conditional cash transfer program and extend its reach from 4,500 households in 2008 to 4.4 million households (20 million people on average) in 2015.

In Bangladesh, Australia supports BRAC's Targeting the Ultra Poor program which provides extremely poor people with skills and assets to build their own livelihoods. We also work the government to improve its systems.

We are also working in countries where social protection systems are still in their early stages.

In Laos, we are working with the government, in partnership with non-government organisations in the field, to build a strong evidence base by piloting the beginnings of a social protection system. This new initiative will target 1,200 households reaching around 6,000 poor and vulnerable people in rural Laos.

In addition to our work though country programs, we contribute to global initiatives that build country systems and knowledge, like the World Bank's Rapid Social Response program and the G20 dialogue on social protection.

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Last Updated: 2 May 2017
A Bangladeshi woman feeding cows
Joygum Begum is a graduate of BRAC’s Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction program, and now works to engage others in the program. Photo: Conor Ashleigh / DFAT