Measuring social protection performance in the context of the SDGs

Measuring social protection performance in the context of the SDGs


European Commission Concept Paper provides a critical review of measuring social protection outcomes in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).




The Concept Paper, Indicators to measure social protection performance, provides an overview of key social protection indicators used by multilateral and bilateral agencies to assess current coverage and gaps in measuring social protection at an international level and gives guidance on developing social protection indicators for use in EC programming. Particular attention is paid to the SDG indicators and how harmonisation between EC and SDG indicators can be enhanced.


SDG indicators and how they relate to social protection

This core section takes a critical perspective on the SDG indicators selected in the area of social protection to capture progress against the SDG targets. The SDGs come up with new indicators
and methodologies to measure global trends over the coming decades. It remains unclear how these indicators are to be understood, as they try to measure targets, which are often open-ended and not easily quantifiable or aspirational rather than feasibly attainable.

The findings point to three main challenges in the current social protection indicator discourse.

  • The SDG indicators in the area of social protection focus heavily on measuring quantity at the input and output level, at the expense of results-oriented indicators, which would capture social protection outcomes and impacts and measure the quality of social protection;
  • The choices of indicators are as much political as they are technical; challenging data limitations therefore affect the types of indicators prioritised and finally chosen;
  • The lack of comparability and conceptual consistency means that agencies are not able to use each other's data.

The findings point to a high demand for addressing the existing inconsistencies in the use of language, the composition and the definitions for social protection key concepts, such as coverage (legal vs. effective). This results in many incompatible and sometimes incomplete data sets in terms of periods of collection, geographical coverage and the level of disaggregation required by SDG targets.




The paper calls for the combined efforts from across international partners, governments and agencies to allow future indicators to consistently monitor and evaluate the many aspects of social protection outcomes and impacts, for more effective policy making. It also provides more detailed recommendations on how the EU could play an important role in supporting the SDG process, to adopt indicators where the SDG indicators are considered adequate for EU monitoring purposes, and in attempting to build on, rather than duplicate, existing indicators, where they are not. To read the Concept Paper in full, click here.