When we look at the types of “social safety nets” promoted by the World Bank, many are not available for people to access when they face a crisis. Take the example of many conditional cash transfers (CCT), such as Mexico’s Oportunidades programme. Despite the many merits of Oportunidades, it is certainly not an effective safety net. Targeting takes place very infrequently – in some regions, every nine years – which means that, if a family falls into poverty between these targeting periods, they cannot access the programme. Instead, they may have to wait many years and by then it is likely to be too late.
The other problem with programmes such as Oportunidades is targeting error. ….
In reality, programmes like Oportunidades little more than old-fashioned “poor relief.” They try their best to provide the poor with a benefit but the majority of the poor usually miss out. They may have clever names such as “CCTs” and “Productive Safety Nets” but, at heart, they’re little different in conception to the poor relief programmes that many European countries had in the 18th and 19th centuries. The most relevant aspect of these poor relief programmes for the current debate is that they gradually shrank in size, to be replaced by more popular and conventional social security programmes such as old age pensions, disability benefits, child grants and unemployment programmes (the latter, of course, representing a real “safety net”).
Stephen Kidd, “Social Safety Net ≠ Safety Net“, Pathways’ Perspectives #3 (July 2012).
There is much more in the full, 4-page post.