Post-graduation from social protection


What are the longer-term assessments of social protection graduation programmes telling us about the sustainability of these programmes? Is there evidence of good practice from states offering support to people who have 'graduated'? How can we design social protection programmes so they can most effectively help people become more productive, including by transitioning from informal to formal sector employment?


This paper reviews the results of social protection graduation programmes. It highlights whether people who leave the programmes are lifted sustainably out of poverty, and what changes they experience in their lives and livelihoods. The first part of the report reviews general lessons about how graduation happens and whether there are any impacts on employment, and the second part of the paper reports the results from longer-term or followup evaluations of graduation programmes.

Key findings from the literature are:

    • Cash or asset transfers alone are not enough. The most successful programmes are complemented with skills training and social support.
    • Nearly all literature notes the existence of structural barriers against graduating out of poverty. Social protection cannot address market failures, environmental shocks, and infrastructure. The state has a role to play in creating an enabling environment.
    • Graduating beneficiaries from one programme into another appears to be a successful approach.
    • Successful graduation may depend on the personal skills and pre-existing assets of the beneficiaries. Experience and understanding in the chosen livelihood strategy is important.
    • Social networks, peer support and confidence have played a strong role in successful graduation. One-to-one mentoring from programme staff has also been helpful.
    • Evidence is mixed on long term effects. Some programmes have had positive long-term impacts, while others have found effects diminishing over time.
    • Education CCTs in general seem not to have had positive effects on employment in the long run. Beneficiaries successfully complete more years of schooling, but this does not translate into better economic opportunities. There is a gap which some suggest the state should fill.
    • Results from Brazil’s Bolsa Família show that the programme does not create dependency and it does not jeopardise entry into the labour market. However, Ethiopia’s PSNP does appear to have some dependency issues.