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Updated by Florian Juergens on 09.03.2018

Malawi has experienced significant economic growth over the last decade. However, poverty and vulnerability have declined only minimally. Poverty is both widespread and deep, with 51 per cent of Malawians living below the national poverty line and 73 per cent below the international poverty line of US$1.25 per day.

 The Government of Malawi has identified social protection as a key instrument to address the endemic poverty and vulnerability. The Malawi National Social Support Programme (MNSSP) provides a wide-ranging framework for the development of the social protection system in the country. Approved in March 2013, the MNSSP focuses on five key social support programmes: 1) public works; 2) social cash transfers; 3) school meals; 4) microcredit; and 5) village savings and loans schemes. Since the inception of the MNSSP, investment in social protection has increased significantly. The Social Cash Transfer programme, piloted in 2006, has seen a large extension of coverage. Likewise, public works, school feeding, and village savings and loans programmes have grown considerably and provide increasing protection to vulnerable Malawians.

 Despite the progress made over the last few years, there are significant gaps in covering all the different groups of people. As a whole, Malawi’s social protection system falls significantly short of the social protection floor (SPF) guarantees on health care and income security throughout the life cycle. Existing social assistance programmes provide insufficient protection to a small number of poor and vulnerable households. Total spending on social protection for the elderly and children is low compared to spending on programmes for the working age population. Moreover, there are no specific interventions that directly address the needs of Malawi’s children besides school feeding programmes.

Closing the design and implementation gaps will require mobilizing additional fiscal space. However, despite the insufficient coverage, total social protection spending is quite high, at 6.8 per cent of GDP. Therefore, in addition to increasing fiscal space, rationalizing social protection programmes and expenditures as well as exploiting linkages between programmes and complementary services, such as agriculture, health and education, are crucial for having sustainable impact.

In 2016, the MNSSP expired and after an extensive process of stakeholder consultation, a successor programme, the MNSSP II was developed. The MNSSP II will run from 2018 to 2023 and build on the successes and lessons learned during the implementation of the first MNSSP. It maintains the same prioritized interventions but these are organised around thematic priority areas, thus providing enhanced strategic policy guidance on promoting linkages, strengthening systems, and improving monitoring activities.

The shift to thematic priority areas is expected to ensure greater alignment of individual programme objectives with the objectives of the National Social Support Policy and the MNSSP II. The areas identified as a priority for investment are:

  • Pillar 1: Consumption Support – Provision of consumption support through timely, predictable and adequate cash and/or in-kind transfers to poor and vulnerable households throughout the lifecycle.
  • Pillar 2: Resilient Livelihoods – Promoting resilient livelihoods through tailored packages based on individual, household, and community needs via graduation pathways, inter-programme linkages, and by facilitating access to and utilisation of services beyond the MNSSP II.
  • Pillar 3: Shock-sensitive Social Protection – Developing a shock-sensitive social protection system that meets seasonal needs, prepares for - and respond to - unpredictable shocks in cooperation with the humanitarian sector, and supports recovery and the return to regular programming.

In parallel to these policy review and development processes, ILO undertakes a range of technical studies, ranging from the proposed Unified Beneficiary Registry and Malawi’s management and information systems, to simulations of cost-benefit ratios and local economic impacts of social protection and agricultural interventions, analysis of targeting methodologies, and a study on intuitional coordination mechanisms. Trainings and capacity building activates have been embedded in all assessments and studies