Chapter 8: Targeting
Open access

Targeting social protection programmes is justified by ideological preferences for pro-poor redistribution, and pragmatic considerations of using limited fiscal resources effectively. However, targeting generates inclusion and exclusion errors, social stigma or resentment, and is susceptible to political manipulation. Conversely, universal programmes are socially inclusive, leave no-one behind and guarantee the right to social protection for all – but are expensive. Comparing different targeting mechanisms reveals two trade-offs. Firstly, more rigorous targeting (e.g. means testing) is more costly to implement than crude mechanisms (e.g. geographic targeting). Secondly, reducing exclusion errors through progressive universalism inevitably increases inclusion errors, and vice versa. It follows that there is no optimal approach to targeting; decisions must reflect programme objectives and should be appropriate, achievable and acceptable. At the system level, universal coverage can be achieved by a set of social assistance programmes targeting vulnerable groups, complemented by social insurance schemes (e.g. unemployment benefits) for working adults.