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How do social protection programmes in the Global South affect migration decisions? A review of the literature

Literature review

Written by Carmen Leon-Himmelstine, Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Jason Gagnon

Literature review

Migration often results from the need to ensure a job, a better and more steady income and to protect one’s family against risks, all similar to the aims of social protection. This paper reviews the literature on the links between the decision to migrate and social protection coverage.

Social protection programmes are highly contextual, and the conditions, mechanisms and specificities differ from country to country, and programme to programme. The design and delivery of social protection programmes, such as who receives the transfer, how much is transferred and the conditions under which the transfer is made, are therefore highly relevant when discussing how they may influence migration decisions.

This paper reviews the body of academic literature on the link between emigration and social protection. It reviews 76 papers, covering 85 countries, published before or in 2020. The following types of social protection programmes are reviewed:

- Conditional cash transfers (CCTs)
- Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs)
- Non-contributory pensions
- Social and health insurance schemes
- Public works programmes