Accepted paper:

Randomness and resentment: problematising household targeting of cash transfers in Lesotho and Malawi


Nicola Ansell (Brunel University London)
Lorraine van Blerk (University of Dundee)
Roeland Hemsteede (University of Dundee)
Evance Mwathunga (Chancellor College, University of Malawi)
Thandie Hlabana (National University of Lesotho)

Paper short abstract:

Household targeting of cash transfers assumes households are stable and easily defined. Qualitative research in rural communities in Malawi and Lesotho reveals this to be untrue. As a result, households appear to be selected randomly, giving rise to widespread resentment of beneficiaries.

Paper long abstract:

Both Malawi and Lesotho have social cash transfer programmes that are intended to target the most vulnerable households, based on a combination of objective criteria (through proxy means testing) and community perceptions (community-based targeting). Based upon in depth qualitative research in two rural communities over a three-year period, we present evidence that these approaches are fundamentally flawed, because they presuppose a stable bounded household that can be assessed as deserving or undeserving. We argue that households in these contexts are both fluid and fuzzy. As a consequence the households selected are not distinctly 'more vulnerable' than others, but appear to be chosen arbitrarily. And as a result, across the communities, the schemes are perceived as unfair and recipient households experience stigmatisation. We contrast the reception of these targeted schemes with Lesotho's universal old age pension, which is viewed much more positively.

panel M3
International social policy and welfare state transitions: towards universalism 2030? (social policy-development studies dialogues) [paper]