Added: Renso Waymire - Date: 18.11.2021 11:29 - Views: 41849 - Clicks: 9928
Around the world, cash transfer programs are being rolled out by governments to mitigate economic hardship brought on by the ongoing pandemic. In Pakistan, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program was introduced in April and rolled out to four groups of beneficiaries, largely relying on mobile phone registrations and requiring a national ID to register.
Due to large gender gaps in mobile phone ownership and national ID possession, women are at risk of being disproportionately excluded from the program. Using data from the Financial Inclusion Insights survey in Pakistan, we use the gender gap in mobile phone and ID possession to estimate the potential gender breakdown of cash recipients.
This means that up to 78 percent of women in poverty will be excluded as direct recipients of Ehsaas Emergency Cash payments. If women do indeed have less access to the program, then overall economic gender equality may regress as a result of the pandemic and associated response efforts. Governments are taking action to reduce both the health and economic impacts of the COVID virus and the resulting global recession, prioritizing the leverage and expansion of existing social protection systems to mitigate economic hardship for poor populations. If well-deed and implemented, expanded social protection schemes can avoid exacerbating inequalities, including gender gaps in financial inclusion and economic security, and even work to narrow them.
In the coming months and years, researchers and policymakers will learn more about the precise effects of social protection strategies on gender gaps in poverty rates and other economic outcomes. For now, we can examine cash transfer and other social safety nets that are being rolled out to mitigate the harm of the COVID economic slow-down, unpacking the details of their de and implementation.
Do schemes target the head of household, or women only? Are payments delivered through mobile phones or other online platforms, or in urban centers rather than rural areas? Must recipients have a legal ID or access to an online portal to apply for support? The answers to these questions, combined with a clear understanding of pre-existing, intersectional gender gaps within a particular country context, can help us to predict where women and girls— and particularly those living in poverty, or in rural areas, or those lacking access to a phone or the internet—are at risk of being left behind.
Overlaying data reflecting gender gaps onto information on the rollout of social protection schemes can also help us to correct for potential inequities and de better systems going forward. Just as COVID began to spread, Pakistan was already in the process of rolling out a new cash transfer scheme targeting women. Launched in , the ature cash transfer program under the Ehsaas umbrella was ly the Benazir Income Support Program BISP , which targeted women from the poorest households in the country.
In February , recognizing the need for an updated cash transfer program, the government implemented the Kafaalat program to replace BISP. And though the BISP program did not automatically set up bank s for intended payment recipients, the Kafaalat program opens bank s for women in a conscious effort to increase their access to financial services. Targeting women more purposefully for cash transfers can contribute to economic empowerment by increasing decision-making power and control over resources in the household. When it was first announced, the Kafaalat program was deed to benefit 7 million women in Pakistan.
As of March 24, , it had enrolled 4. The cash transfer is delivered via biometrically-enabled cashpoints across the country. The program was then expanded on May 18, to include an additional 6 million recipients. With an estimated million individuals in recipient households, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program is meant to benefit approximately percent of the total population of Pakistan.
To implement the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program quickly, the government relied on several existing mechanisms also housed under the umbrella Ehsaas program see Figure 1. As of June 12, , over The program has been rolled out to four of recipients , reflected below. Category I recipients include all 4.
The Pakistani government acted strategically in leveraging the Kafaalat program for the rollout of emergency cash assistance as the pandemic evolved, given that the program had already identified 4. This amount has been delivered as a lump sum, not monthly as originally planned. These are open to both men and women, and require potential recipients to send an SMS message with their national identification s to the enrollment system, at which point their IDs are checked with the National Socio-Economic Registry to determine whether they fall below a certain socioeconomic cutoff.
This cutoff is determined using a point means test, where those scoring below 32 points qualify for Category II. Individuals are also checked against several other databases and may be excluded for a variety of other factors, including public employment, international travel, vehicle registrations and utility bills above a certain level. For those who do not qualify or are not in the registry, they are moved to Category III, which refers the cases to commissioners at district level to verify eligibility.
On May 18, , due to high demand for the program, a fourth category was added. This category will target an additional 6 million recipients who have lost their incomes due to the pandemic, but it is unclear what the specific criteria for eligibility will be. Potential recipients will apply through the online Ehsaas Labor Portal. To register under this category, recipients must still provide a mobile phone and a national ID , and answer questions regarding their lost income.
Table 2: Amount dispersed and withdrawn by beneficiary category as of June 12, The Pakistani government has moved quickly to respond to poverty and food security concerns in light of COVID, and has done so harnessing innovative technologies. For example, the program assumes a household size of 6. According to most recent estimates , nearly 36 million women Furthermore, 7. The Financial Inclusion Insights survey from Pakistan elucidates key gender gaps in financial inclusion.
Across indicators, women have ificantly less access to financial services. The percentage of women who own a bank in their own name 6. The picture remains bleak when including tly owned bank s; only 0. The s are similar when looking solely at women in poverty, with only 5. Taken together, it is clear that formal financial services are not widespread in Pakistan overall, but they remain especially unattainable for women.
Beyond ownership of bank s, women also have more limited access to national identification cards, limiting their ability to access other financial services and government social protection schemes, as well as exercise their broader social and political rights.
An estimated For men and women in poverty, these s actually increase to This increased prevalence of national IDs among the poor may be due to prior registration for government social programs. Women in Pakistan are also are less likely to own mobile phones. Only Financial constraints may contribute to gender gaps; when a household is not able to afford multiple mobile phones, men in the household get priority. Women are much more likely than men to use a phone owned by someone else, usually in the same household.
Of all women, For those in poverty, Even if women have access to a phone, they are less likely to be able to perform the functions required to register for II and III of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program. When asked to judge their own ability to send and receive text messages on a scale of one to five, with five ifying complete ability to do so, women in poverty gave themselves an average rating of 1. Because women in Pakistan are less likely to have both a mobile phone and a national ID than men, they will have differential access to the Ehsaas scheme.
When these two disadvantages are combined, only 25 percent of women in poverty have both a mobile phone and a national ID, compared to 68 percent of men in poverty. Gender gaps in financial inclusion, as well as broader economic security, could become larger with its rollout. Starting the Ehsaas Emergency Cash rollout with 4.
Apart from this earmarked portion, however, women will face an uphill battle for access to the other As it currently stands, the rollout ensures at least 25 percent of Ehsaas Emergency Cash recipients are women, covering But gender gaps in access to phones, bank s, and ID suggest that women will not have an equal opportunity to access the other 75 percent. In a scenario where the proportion of women who successfully enroll via II, III, and IV is equal to the proportion of women among those in poverty who have both a national ID and their own mobile phone This scenario still excludes 78 percent of women in poverty as direct recipients of Ehsaas Emergency Cash payments.
Of course, even if payments are overwhelmingly delivered to men, it is possible to respond to this concern by asserting that payments delivered to men will still benefit women and girls in their households. This is almost certainly true to a degree, but equitable distribution of resources cannot be assumed across the board. In light of these findings, the Pakistani government has an opportunity to ensure women have equal access to the emergency cash program, or even preferential access in order to mitigate the existing gaps in financial inclusion.
Some features of the existing Ehaas scheme already support this objective. Some evidence suggests that Pakistani women with low levels of literacy and numeracy have a difficult time operating ATMs that require a debit card or a PIN , and therefore may have male family members or hired middlemen go to withdraw the money instead of going themselves. Some women may also face restrictive household or community attitudes, limiting their free mobility. But with a fingerprint verification system, Ehsaas Emergency Cash ensures that women must withdraw cash transfers themselves.
Of course this says nothing about what happens to the funds once women return home, but ensuring women receive the money is a positive start. There is an obvious trade-off between needing to roll out the Ehsaas Emergency Cash program quickly to mitigate the effects that households face in light of economic crisis, and deing and implementing the program conscientiously so that gender gaps in financial inclusion are narrowed, or at the very least, not exacerbated.
Under normal circumstances large scale social protection programs provide an opportunity to systematically open bank s for poor populations and make formal financial services available to them, but time is of the essence in light of COVID The Pakistani government could announce, for example, that priority in processing applications should be to those submitted by women using their own national ID s on behalf of their families.
Women would then need to go themselves to the pay points to retrieve payments. Longer-term, the Ehsaas program —and others like it across countries —will need to prioritize broader inclusion efforts to ensure that women without a national ID or access to digital platforms, likely those in greatest need of cash relief, are not inadvertently excluded from social protection schemes. Other governments have employed different models to provide immediate cash relief and attempt to reach the most vulnerable women.
The Indian government, for example, has also leveraged an existing financial inclusion program, Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana PMJDY , to roll out an emergency cash transfer scheme, but has delivered the emergency cash only to s registered to women. Having percent of the funds delivered directly to women may address some of the intrahousehold inequalities referenced above, though the program is still inaccessible to over half of poor women. If targeting women is difficult because the government is having trouble identifying potential women recipients, Mexico provides an example of a work around.
To quickly identify potential recipients, the government simply looked to the roster of the recently dismantled Prospera program and rolled those beneficiaries into the new cash transfer scheme. Governments can also consider varying cash amounts by gender of recipients to correspond to predicted need, including through recognizing that women may need additional support to for their unpaid care work burdens, already disproportionate and potentially increased in light of COVID This was the case in Togo, which introduced the Novissi cash transfer in April targeted at informal workers who lost their livelihoods due to COVID The program was implemented for three months until June 15, , at which point the country began the process of lifting lockdown measures and the program was ended.
Like the Pakistani model, the Togolese program required an ID and a phone, and cash was delivered directly to mobile money s. Women made up about 65 percent of cash recipients, suggesting that the Novissi program should be examined further to understand how women can be at least equally, if not predominately, targeted by cash transfer schemes.
Researchers and policymakers still have a lot to learn about the most effective means of ensuring women and girls equally benefit from social protection schemes, and that such programs work to promote broader equality. But as the evidence base expands, there are still critical lessons to keep top of mind now.
In the first instance, policymakers must remember that cash transfers are not rolled out in gender-equal contexts. Pre-existing gender gaps in access to ID, mobile phone ownership, financial literacy skills, and more mean that if cash transfer programs ignore these realities, they are likely to exacerbate gaps. Where resources allow, the evidence suggests that cash transfers must be complemented by the provision of ID, bank s, and mobile phones, as well as investments that increase financial, digital, and even basic literacy and numeracy, to ensure that progress in economic gender equality does not stall or regress.
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