Overview of Non-contributory Social Protection Programmes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region Through a Child and Equity Lens

Machado, A. C.
Publication language
Date published
01 Apr 2018
Research, reports and studies
Children & youth, Poverty, Protection, human rights & security

An ever-growing body of research has documented the importance of making social protection programmes more responsive to the specific needs of children. In fact, social protection policies do not necessarily have to target children to benefit them. For example, children can benefit from social protection by having a pensioner in their family. In addition, the design of social protection policies can foster synergies with other basic social services in the areas of health, nutrition and education, helping to achieve other SDGs and to fight multiple dimensions of deprivation faced by children.

This study provides a closer look at child-sensitive non-contributory social protection in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where child poverty remains a critical concern. A recent study in 11 Arab countries has shown that an estimated one in four children suffers from acute multidimensional poverty, meaning that they are deprived of their basic rights in two or more of the following dimensions: decent housing, health care, safe water, sanitation, nutrition, basic education and information (LAS, UN ESCWA, UNICEF, and OPHI 2017).

Social protection in the MENA region is traditionally characterised by a reliance on universal food, fuel and utility subsidies and on contributory insurance schemes. However, there is growing consensus that non-targeted subsidies disproportionally favour the wealthy and have little effect on poverty reduction. While social insurance systems are in place for those in the civil service and in formal employment, they provide only limited protection for workers outside the formal labour market.