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Social cash transfers, generational relations and youth poverty trajectories

This three-year collaborative research project has generated evidence about the ways in which social cash transfer (SCT) schemes intervene in and transform the structural power relations that underlie the reproduction of poverty. It has focused on rural youth and draws on qualitative research in two rural communities, one in Malawi, which has recently introduced social cash transfers to ultra-poor labour-constrained households, and the other in Lesotho which operates social pensions and child grants. The research also investigated the policy communities that designed and are implementing the schemes. It was funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development.

Cash transfers are viewed by recipients as invaluable for poverty reduction, but their full effects depend on how they intervene in social relations. In-depth research in recipient communities reveals:

  • Schemes that target vulnerable households are based on an inadequate understanding of household dynamics, and as a consequence are perceived as arbitrary and unfair.
  • Cash transfers to the elderly (particularly where they are universal) are perceived to be fairer than those to young adults and may contribute more to community bonds, though young people may invest more in productive activities.
  • Unearned transfers to young adults may promote social isolation; public works schemes are widely viewed as a more legitimate way of assisting young families.

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Builders in Thyolo District, Malawi

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Interviewing in the Maluti Mountains


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Project last modified 11/08/2021