Social Protection in Asia (SPA)

SPA is a research, advocacy and network building programme which aims to overcome barriers to the extension of social protection to poor and marginalized groups in Asia. The programme seeks to identify and promote innovative forms of social protection which contribute to sustainable poverty reduction and development.

SPA Research

The most recent phase of the programme (2007-2010) has been concerned with the extension of social protection to those sections of the population who are excluded from formal social security systems and who must either work for their living in the informal economy or are dependent on others who do. These people constitute the majority of the population in Asia and pose a major challenge for conventional models of social security. They are often amongst the poorest sections of their country’s population and therefore least likely to be able to contribute to the taxes which fund state provision of social protection.

They are also least able to purchase their own forms of protection from market providers or build up the asset base that might provide them with a degree of resilience in the face of crisis. They rely largely on informal safety nets which, as the earlier East Asian crisis demonstrated, are often strained to their limits in times of generalised crisis.

The SPA research agenda therefore focuses on social protection interventions that have the capacity to address some of the barriers to the establishment of more comprehensive social protection systems that address the needs of these difficult-to-reach groups. We were interested in going beyond evaluation of specific interventions to consider how they might contribute to this broader goal. The research has been carried out in six Asian countries: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and China. It covers a variety of schemes and interventions in these countries, including:

  • Keluarga Harapan Programme in Indonesia
  • National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India
  • New Co-operative Medical Scheme in China
  • Disaster management and emergency social protection in China
  • Targeting the Ultra-poor in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan
  • Schemes for extending protection to migrants in China
  • Community-based initiatives for the elderly in China
  • Land regularisation schemes in Pakistan
  • Tenure security in urban India

SPA Networking, Communications and Advocacy

The SPA Network

  • builds partnerships for regional research and advocacy
  • provides technical and research support to build regional capacity
  • provides a gateway to global social protection networks and resources
  • maintains a database of relevant institutions and programmes on social protection
  • shares and disseminates research findings and experiences on social protection
  • assists in the development of policy briefings and advocacy materials
  • convenes researchers, policy makers and other relevant actors to promote learning and debate on social protection
  • manages a website and e-newsletter on social protection

Programme structure and contacts

The programme has been co-managed and administered by IDS, Sussex and IHD, Delhi.

  • Co-Directors: Professor Alakh N Sharma, IHD; Professor Naila Kabeer, SOAS (formerly IDS)
  • Former Director: Sarah Cook, UNRISD (formerly IDS)
  • Programme Manager: C. Upendranadh (formerly IHD)
  • Programme Administrator: Marion Clarke, IDS
  • Researcher: Deepta Chopra, IDS&

An Advisory group is composed of senior academics and practitioners in the field

Website: Social Protection in Asia

Key contacts

Project details

start date
22 January 2007
end date
31 December 2010


About this project

Programmes and centres
Centre for Social Protection

Recent work


New Pathways for the Poorest: the Graduation Model from BRAC

The poorest, chronically food insecure households, with irregular incomes and little or no assets are often excluded from development interventions including microcredit. When they do receive assistance they are rarely able to improve their conditions enough to maintain long-term sustainable...

1 January 2011