Cash Transfers: Changing Dependencies in the New Politics of Distribution
Eleanor Fisher (University of Reading)
Paper short abstract:
This paper uses empirical data derived from participatory social research on the linkages between social protection and rural employment in Malawi to explore questions of dependency and to reflect on how issues of equity are brought to the fore in the shifting dynamics of distribution.
Paper long abstract:
For poor people living at the margins of the global economy, where land-based livelihoods and wage labour are unreliable, the distribution of cash transfers is a life-sustaining activity within recent models of social protection. This leads Ferguson (2015) to contend that African cash transfer programmes are part of a new politics of distribution, in which profound shifts are at play across the Continent involving distributive transfers from government to citizens. The fact of new flows of cash entering households and local economies characterised by profound vulnerability and overwhelming lack of opportunity raises crucial questions over the role(s) cash transfers occupy in 'beneficiaries' lives and over the distribution of 'benefits' within communities. Cash transfers are a means of survival for chronically poor individuals living in rural communities where needs are extensive. In these communities there is an ethos towards giving everyone over time 'a slice of the development cake'. Therefore, this form of distribution generates new inequalities and conflicts lubricated by long-established power relations and social norms. My paper uses empirical data derived from participatory social research on the linkages between social protection and rural employment in Malawi to explore questions of dependency. It reflects on how issues of equity are brought to the fore in the shifting dynamics of distribution. In this changing terrain over the distribution of development benefits, one can caution against a simplistic equation of cash transfers with dependency, but nevertheless questions are raised regarding the distribution of benefits and emergence of new challenges for the realisation of social equity.
New forms of dependence in rural Africa?