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Impact of social pensions on multiple dimensions of poverty, subjective wellbeing and solidarity across generations

Research Partners:

Photo (cropped): Malawian family with drought tolerant maize crop. Photo credit: Anne Wangalachi/CIMMYT/Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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Principal Investigators: Gloria Chepngeno Langat. Lead Organisation: University of Southampton

Co-investigators: Isabella, Anike, Gbemisola Aboderin; Maria Evandrou 

The number of older persons (aged 60 and above) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is considerable and is expected to grow faster than anywhere else, increasing from 46 million in 2015 to 157 million by 2050. A majority of older Africans continue to reside in rural areas. However, an increasing number live in cities and other urban areas, often in informal settlements or 'slums' within contexts of chronic poverty. Over the past decade a growing number of SSA countries, such as Kenya, have introduced or expanded social pension programmes for vulnerable older people as a means to securing their livelihoods and enhancing their well-being. Kenya's Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme (OPCTP) was piloted in 2007 and has since expanded to reach over 164,000 beneficiaries with monthly stipends of US$23.

The readiness of governments such as Kenya's to invest in such schemes has been spurred by evidence, largely from South Africa's long established social pension, of positive impacts of pension grants on beneficiary households. Such impacts include improvements in the economic, education or health opportunities of younger household members as a result of older beneficiaries' tendency to 'share' their pensions with younger generation kin. Much less attention however has been paid to diverging analyses that raise concerns over the impacts of social pensions on the well-being of older beneficiaries and inter-generational cohesion within their households and families. Such evidence suggests that younger and older generations' competing claims, and dependencies on the pension funds, create inter-generational conflict, often leading to violence and abuse directed at the older beneficiary.

To date, little systematic empirical research has been conducted on the effects of the social pension scheme in Kenya, or of similar schemes in other SSA countries outside South Africa. As Kenya considers a further expansion of the pension scheme, profound knowledge gaps remain about the nature and drivers of household and individual-level and inter- generational impacts of the OPCTP and its overall effects on the well-being of older beneficiaries and their families in urban and rural contexts. A grasp of these areas is critical if governments are to fully understand and harness the potential of social pensions as a vehicle for broad poverty alleviation across age-groups, and the family transfers and norms that underpin this role.

This research seeks to generate robust, urgently needed evidence to address the critical knowledge gaps in order to inform policy debates and thinking on the further development of the OPCTP and similar schemes in SSA, and to advance academic debates on poverty dynamics by contributing new theoretical perspectives on the ways in which family inter- generational relationships and transfers shape younger and older individuals' opportunities (or a lack thereof) for moving out of poverty. Evidence generation will focus on two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, in which one of the project partners, APHRC, runs a demographic and health surveillance site, and will comprise both (i) quantitative analyses of existing data on older residents' households, to identify how the wellbeing of OPCTP beneficiaries has changed since receipt of the pension and (ii) extensive interviews with community informants and a sample of older pension beneficiaries and key members of their kin-networks, to explore their experiences and perspectives on the OPCTP and the ways in which it has impacted their lives.

Further Resources:

The proposed study will seek to impact policy, academic and public audiences and debates at national level in Kenya, regional level in sub-Saharan Africa and global level. The study has three confirmed policy partners (one national, two regional) who have expressed interest and commitment to engage with the proposed project (see letters of support).

Expected national-level policy impacts will centre on the generation and brokering of strategic, evidence based insights on the role of-, and approaches to harnessing the OPCTP as a vehicle for poverty alleviation across age-groups to key decision makers, planners and operations managers. The Department of Social Development at the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services operating the OPCTP and who are responsible for coordinating government action on issues of ageing, is a major partner. The findings from the study will beneficial to the Ministry by informing on the operational issues and challenges of the OPCTP and facilitate the capacity of the Ministry through providing a knowledge base in order to refine the administration of the scheme. Further the knowledge on the impacts and implications of the scheme (both positive and negative) at individual, household, and community level will enhance the Ministry's capacity for effective review and refinement of policy guiding the social protection programme. Through participation in the design of data collection tools the study will enhance the Ministry's capacity to design an effective nationwide assessment of the OPCTP's impacts and implications. The proposed research will serve as a critical pilot or pre-cursor to help shape such a national assessment which the Ministry has identified as a need in order to inform further expansion of the scheme. Other national-level partners include national ministries or agencies concerned with poverty reduction such as the Ministry of Planning, the Treasury, the Gender and Equality Commission, Vision 2030 Secretariat and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. County administrations which are already actively engaged in, or are considering, a supplementation of the OPCTP through county-level funds are other beneficiaries. 

At regional level, anticipated policy impacts will be secured through the sharing of key emerging principles and perspectives that need to inform SSA thinking on the poverty alleviating role and further development of schemes such as the OPCTP. One of the key users will be the Africa Platform for Social Protection which is a network of civil society organisations working at local, national and regional levels to promote active engagement of civil society organisations in advocacy for, and the shaping of social protection policies, programmes and practices in Africa. The findings from study will enhance the capacity of the network members located across Africa to develop evidence-based, focused policy advocacy on both (i) the 'case' for old age social protection schemes and (ii) necessary implementation approaches. At the regional level, the research will also be beneficial to the Department of Social Affairs of the African Union (AU) which is responsible for promoting the Africa-wide implementation of the AU Social Policy Framework which places central emphasis on the forging and expansion of social protection mechanisms. In addition to tailored outputs, the potential impact of the research on policy audiences and debates will be enhanced through the explicit collaborative partnership forged with the Ministry for the purpose of developing and realising the proposed project, as well as strong existing links with the AU and the Africa Platform for Social Protection. 

Consultations and deliberations with the key non-academic end users have been on-going as part of the proposal writing and this will continue throughout the life of the project to maximize on the utility of the research.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
University of Southampton School of Social Science
Fund Start Date: 
January 1st, 2017
Fund End Date: 
June 30th, 2019
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: 
social policy