Measuring the social, economic and political effects of social protection: How to overcome the challenges?


Bonn, 15.04.2015 bis 17.04.2015


The programme „Global Alliances for Social Protection“ of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and the Internationales Zentrum für Internationale Zusammenarbeit / International Center for Sustainable Development (IZNE) at Bonn- Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences

The organisers welcomed about 55 international participants to join the workshop on “Measuring the social, economic and political effects of social protection: How to overcome the challenges?” on 15-17 April 2015 at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) in Bonn, Germany.

The Workshop has provided a platform for academics, policy-makers, and experts from public and private entities to (i) discuss the challenges of measuring the effects of social protection, and (ii) learn how others have dealt with – and overcome – them. Participants came from 17 countries in South- and South East Asia, Latin America and Europe; among them representatives from Ministries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico, Peru, as well representatives from international organisations such as the CEPAL, ILO, OECD, the World Bank, and others.

World-wide, social protection is increasingly seen as a key issue not only for the well-being of people but also for the social, economic and political development of countries. Social protection systems are meant to provide a minimum standard of living for everyone and to reduce multidimensional poverty and inequality. In addition, they prevent shocks that are due to risks such as sickness, unemployment, or age, which can push people into poverty. In this way, social protection systems can also encourage people to invest their savings in capital assets or human capital instead of hording them for the case that a risk occurs. As a consequence, they promote investment and growth among low income people. Finally, social protection schemes alleviate citizens’ concerns about the future, there­by contributing to social inclusion, social cohesion and the stability of state and society.

On the practical side, the establishment of an internationally unified and standardised set of definitions, as well as assessment tools and outcome metrics for social protection are underway. The Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment (ISPA) is one example, next to other processes that aim at measuring and evaluating social protection systems.

Although increasing empirical evidence is available, many open questions concerning the multidimensional effects of social protection policies remain. However, extending the evidence base on the effects of social protection is compounded by many methodological, technical, financial and political obstacles. For example:

  • Identifying (proxy) indicators for measuring the different effects.
  • Analytical approaches for differentiating between short- and long-term effects.
  • Designing research projects that allow to compare the effects of social protection systems in different parts of the world.
  • Isolating the effects of social protection systems from the effects of other policies, understanding the interaction between social protection and other policies and measuring the efficiency of social protection compared to alternative social policies.
  • Identifying appropriate research techniques (e.g. qualitative versus quantitative approaches, micro versus macro level data etc.).
  • Designing surveys in a way that interviewees give reliable answers. 
  • Raising funds for larger surveys.
  • Timely delivery of results: Rigorous scientific analysis requires reliable and often comprehensive data. But the collection, compilation and analysis of data requires time that policy makers often do not have for their taking decisions. 
  • Dealing with limits set to the scope and contents of research by rigid legal and political framework conditions.
  • Establishing effective communication channels between researchers and practitioners to enable continuous mutual feedback loops.


The participants of the workshop have discussed these obstacles, their methodological, financial, organisational and political causesand ways to overcome them. (Please note the workshop programme in the download section on the right).

In their opening addresses, Dr. Imme Scholz (Vice-Director of DIE), Dr. Heike Kuhn (Head of Unit 300 - Sectoral and thematic policies; poverty reduction, social security/investment at BMZ), and Dr. Günther Taube (Director of Division Education, Health, Social Protection at GIZ) stressed the relevance of improved evaluation methods, and the contribution of social protection for more progress in social, economic, environmental, and political developments in the scope of the Post-2015 agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the six thematic sessions a large number of speakers with a variety of professional and country-specific backgrounds, ranging from academia, international organisations to public authorities, presented their views and experiences with the challenges involved in measuring the effects of social protection systems. This included challenges related to methodology, i.e. causality, survey data collection, as well as coordination problems between the many stakeholders involved.

These explorations were met by lively discussions involving the plenary. Pressing questions involved the kind of effects to be measured, ranging from immediate to long-term and from expected to unexpected effects, as well as from positive to negative effects. Further questions addressed the different foci of evaluations, including output, outcome and impact, as well as opportunity costs, and the social costs of not implementing social security programmes.
The coordination and alignment of different sector specific interests involving academia, public authorities and international organisations was emphasised as a major challenge for fruitful exchange and evidence based policy making.

This direct exchange between international researchers and practitioners, within a truly open and respectable working atmosphere, was the first of its kind, organised by the GIZ programme Global Alliances for Social Protection in collaboration with DIE and IZNE. It is to be continued, given the high relevance of the topic amid the SDG discussions, as well as the need for closer exchange between academia and practise.

Hinweis / Please note

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Datum / Uhr
15.04.2015 bis 17.04.2015 / 19:00 - 17:00


German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
Tulpenfeld 6
53113 Bonn

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