Social Protection and Its Effects on Gender Equality: A literature review

Working paper


Globally, progress has been made in the fight against both poverty and gender inequality, including through the expansion of social protection programmes. Yet significant gaps remain. Many women and girls remain in poverty and often face different structural constraints and risks across their life course, related to their biological sex as well as entrenched gender norms that discriminate against them in many aspects of their lives. As poverty, risks and vulnerabilities – which social protection aims to minimize, reduce or tackle – are gendered, if the root causes of gender inequality are not investigated in evidence generation and addressed in policy and practice, poverty will not be sustainably eradicated, nor gender equality achieved.

This paper provides an overview of the latest evidence on the effects of social protection on gender equality. It starts by considering how risks and vulnerabilities are gendered, and the implications of their gendered nature for boys’ and girls’, and men’s and women’s well-being throughout the life course. It then reviews and discusses the evidence on the design features of four types of social protection programmes – non-contributory programmes, contributory programmes, labour market programmes, and social care services – and their effects on gender equality, unpacking which design features matter the most to achieve gender equality. Finally, the paper concludes with implications for a future research agenda on gender and social protection.

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