Stephen Kidd is blogging!

British anthropologist Stephen Kidd’s new blog is worth visiting. Here are extracts from two of his first three posts, with links to the full blogs.

The campaign in the UK against social security has strong parallels in developing countries. As in the UK, politicians in developing countries often claim that social security will breed dependency and laziness. These arguments have been used by agencies such as the World Bank to create support for schemes that force behaviour change on poor people. Conditional cash transfers (CCTs) have becoming increasingly popular, despite strong evidence that conditions achieve nothing. Similarly a growing number of workfare programmesare being established – often with significant financial support from international donors – despite growing evidence that they may harm child nutrition and do not reach the poorest. Indeed, it could be argued that supporters of CCTs and workfare are merely recreating the type of poor relief that was common in nineteenth century Europe, when support for the poor was made conditional on participation in the workhouse.

Stephen Kidd, “The rise and rise of neo-liberal social protection“, Just KIDDing, 3 May 2013.


[T]he main social security scheme in Brazil is the old age pension rather than the much-vaunted Bolsa Familia. It is the old age pension that mainly impacts on poverty and inequality in Brazil, not Bolsa Familia, which, at best, ameliorates poverty for a minority of poor families. Brazil’s old age pension system provides almost universal coverage and, increasingly, other Latin American countries are implementing similarly inclusive schemes that aim to reach broad sections of the population, whether they be poor, near-poor, middle class or, in some cases, the rich. A few examples are:

  • Argentina, in 2009, instituted a new child allowance which, combined with its existing family allowances, ensures that 85% of children aged 0-18 years benefit from social security; in addition, its pension system reaches 93% of older people (mainly through contributory pensions);
  • Bolivia instituted a universal pension – the Renta Dignidad – in 2007 and also has a grant for all children entering primary school;
  • Chile’s pension reform of 2008 means that almost all older people now receive a pension;
  • Ecuador’s tax financed old age pension is growing rapidly and currently reaches around 65% of older people; when contributory pensions are taken into account, overall coverage will be much higher
  • Mexico’s new tax-financed pension system is expected to reach 70% of over-65s in 2013, with many others benefitting from contributory pensions;
  • In Venezuela, pension coverage increased by 600% under Chavez and now reaches almost all older people;
  • Uruguay has long provided almost universal pension coverage, mainly through a contributory system.

Stephen Kidd, “Is Latin America transitioning from poor relief CCTs to a more progressive and inclusive vision of social security?“, Just KIDDing, 10 June 2013.

Dr Kidd is a Senior Social Policy Specialist at Development Pathways, an NGO based in London (UK).

Regarding Mexico, only residents with access to a contributory pension will be excluded from the new non-contributory pension of about 40 dollars a month. The pension test is expected to exclude an estimated 30% of Mexico’s over-65 population from benefits. The new universal minimum pension replaces a pension of about 25 dollars provided by Oportunidades to households for each elderly member aged 70 and older. Oportunidades is a conditional cash transfer scheme, similar to Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, that targets poor families with children in primary school (grades 3 through 6).

The bottom line is that, beginning this year, every Mexican from age 65 will have a right to at least one pension. Those who receive a non-contributory federal pension are allowed to receive a second, non-contributory pension from a state government. In Mexico City, for example, all residents from age 68 receive a cash pension that is now equal to about 75 dollars a month. Those who qualify for the 40 dollar federal pension can continue to receive a universal pension from the local government, for total monthly benefits of about 115 dollars. Only those with access to a contributory pension (about 40% of the residents of Mexico City) will be denied the federal benefit. Mexico’s non-contributory pensions are modest, but they are now given to individuals, not families. If a spouse receives a contributory pension, this has no bearing on an applicant’s right to a non-contributory pension. Moreover, all pensioners are free to supplement pension benefits with income from work, remittances from friends and family, or withdrawals from personal savings without this affecting their eligibility for a non-contributory pension.

Update: According to Ms Rosa Icela Rodríguez Velázquez, Secretary of Social Development for the local government, only 35% of the elderly residents of Mexico City receive a contributory pension. This is lower than the earlier estimate of 40% that I relied on.

Recordó [Rosa Icela Rodriguez] que el Distrito Federal es la única entidad del país que ha hecho ley que los adultos mayores tengan derecho a la pensión alimentaria. “Es muy bueno que exista esto, porque solamente 35 por ciento de los adultos mayores de la ciudad reciben pensión o jubilación del Issste o el Seguro Social, el resto no tenemos ninguna. En el caso de las mujeres, 80 por ciento no tienen ninguna pensión, ninguna jubilación, porque por desgracia el hogar no jubila ni pensiona”.

Gabriela Romero, “Entrega el gobierno a 1,162 nuevos adultos mayores la tarjeta de pensión alimentaria“, La Jornada, 29 May 2013, p. 35.

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