How to think in Systems? Great (and accessible, and short) book.

August 27, 2013

On a speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand for next 3 weeks – here are the details

August 27, 2013

Now that’s what I call social protection: the Chile Solidario Programme

August 27, 2013
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Another one of the fascinating case studies dug up by Sophie King for my recent UN paper on ‘The Role of the State in Empowering Poor and ExcludedChile Solidario logo Groups and Individuals’. This one looks at how Chile manages its integrated social protection programme and is based on a paper by the excellent Stephanie Barrientos. Reading it really brings home the rapid erosion of any real distinction between North and South. Not at all sure UK provision is as good as this.

The Chile Solidario integrated anti-poverty programme was introduced by Government in 2002 as part of a wider drive to eradicate extreme poverty. It was designed according to a multi-dimensional understanding of poverty and capabilities to target 225,000 indigenous households using national socio-economic survey data.

When they first join the programme, households are allocated a ‘household support worker’ and an income transfer. Their support worker holds a series of collective sessions with all the members of the households to identify capability deficits across 7 dimensions of well-being, each with a set of minimum thresholds: education, health, employment, household dynamics, income, housing and registration. Examples of minimum thresholds include being recorded in the civil registry; children being up to date with immunisations; children below 15 attending school and regularized occupancy of land and housing. In these support sessions, household members discuss how to overcome these deficits, and commitments are made by both themselves and their support worker who is also responsible for linking members up to relevant programmes and services. The aim is for 70% of Chile Solidariohouseholds to meet all the minimum thresholds within each of the seven dimensions of capability at the end of the first two years of their participation in the programme. Access to public programmes and the income transfer continues for another three years.


  • By 2005, 86.9% of eligible households had been contacted and 51,441 had exited the programme as intended
  • Successive evaluations have demonstrated ‘high levels of satisfaction and achievement’ and the most recent three year evaluation particularly highlights achievements for employment outcomes throughout participating households.

Drivers of success:

  • The programme is innovative because it attempts to address the structural causes of poverty, while focusing on strengthening capabilities in relation to the minimum thresholds described above, and engaging the most disadvantaged


  • The thresholds were set without any input from beneficiaries raising questions as to how comprehensive a set of capabilities the programme is focused on
  • Attainment of capability is measured by a yes/no evaluation in relation to issues such as ‘registered with primary health care unit’ or ‘children below 15 attend school’. Some critics suggest that this does not fully capture different levels of capability
  • Questions have been raised about the approach to measuring eligibility for the programme

All the online sources seem to be 2010 or earlier – can anyone give us an update on how Chile Solidario is doing?


  1. Larranaga, O., Contreras, D., & Ruiz-Tagle, J. (2012). Impact evaluation of Chile Solidario: lessons and policy recommendations. Journal of Latin American Studies, 44(02), 347-372.

    Martorano, B., & Sanfilippo, M. (2012). Innovative Features In Poverty Reduction Programmes: An Impact Evaluation Of Chile Solidario On Households And Children. Journal of International Development, 24(8), 1030-1041.

  2. Chile Solidario was a social program from the Concertacion governments, it was replaced during Sebastian Piñera’s government by the Ingreso Ético Familiar (In spanish,

    Further reading:
    Brandt, N. (2012), “Reducing Poverty in Chile: Cash
    Transfers and Better Jobs”, OECD Economics Department. Working Papers, No. 951,

    1. Thanks Rafael, From the website the IEF looks similar in scale (170,000 poorest families) and remit. Any major differences?

  3. Don’t want to criticise Chile or praise the UK DWP too much , but just a couple of points strike me.
    They target 225,000 households , OK that’s households not people but still not a great deal of folk. It’s a good idea to target like this but it’s going to be in addition to pensions and unemployment benefit which will need to be paid to millions of people here in the UK and Chile.
    And after 3 years over 10% had not even been contacted ? OK , that’s difficult too but imagine the headlines if 10% of UK pensioners were not getting contacted about their pensions.

  4. The scale is the same between both programs (there are some minor differences in focalization though), but the main difference is moving from a psicosocial intervention program to a conditional cash transfer one. IEF has just started and there are only preliminary impact studies, most of them show no effect after the intervention ended.

  5. The paper the author has mentioned at the beginning of the article is not by Stephanie Barrientos, but instead by Armando Barrientos.

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