Social Protection Index Brief: Social Assistance Programs in Asia and the Pacific

Date: October 2013
Type: Papers and Briefs
Series: ADB Briefs
ISBN: 978-92-9254-294-8 (print), 978-92-9254-295-5 (web)
ISSN: 2071-7202 (print), 2218-2675 (web)
Author: McKinley, Terry; Handayani, Sri Wening


This policy brief examines the six major subcomponents of social assistance and draws out policy lessons based on comprehensive data for 35 countries in the region.

Key points

  • Social assistance accounts for only 36% of total expenditures on social protection in Asia and the Pacific but benefits 58% of total target beneficiaries.
  • Social transfers and child welfare comprise two-thirds of social assistance spending.
  • Although cash transfers are gaining popularity in Asia and the Pacific, they should not be considered the centerpiece of national social protection systems.
  • While social assistance programs will remain relevant for the poorest and disadvantaged groups, they cannot address all problems associated with poverty and vulnerability.
  • Disaster relief is another form of social assistance that has increased in importance due to rising vulnerabilities brought about by natural shocks, including those associated with climate change.