Fiscal Space for Social Protection and the SDGs: Options to Expand Social Investments in 187 Countries

82 Pages Posted: 15 May 2015 Last revised: 12 Jun 2017

See all articles by Isabel Ortiz

Isabel Ortiz

United Nations - International Labour Organization (ILO); Initiative for Policy Dialogue

Matthew Cummins


Kalaivani Karunanethy


Date Written: May 7, 2015


It is often argued that social protection is not affordable or that government expenditure cuts are inevitable during adjustment periods. But there are alternatives, even in the poorest countries. This working paper offers eight options that should be explored to expand fiscal space and generate resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), realize human rights and invest in women and children. These include: (i) re-allocating public expenditures; (ii) increasing tax revenues; (iii) expanding social security coverage and contributory revenues; (iv) lobbying for aid and transfers; (v) eliminating illicit financial flows; (vi) using fiscal and foreign exchange reserves; (vii) borrowing or restructuring existing debt and; (viii) adopting a more accommodative macroeconomic framework.

Keywords: social protection, fiscal space, resource mobilization, public expenditures, tax, social security contributions, foreign reserves, development assistance, illicit financial flows, government debt, expansionary fiscal and monetary policy, development policy, social spending, social investments, equit

JEL Classification: F35, H12, H2, H5, H6, H62, H63, I38, O2, O23

Suggested Citation

Ortiz, Isabel and Cummins, Matthew and Karunanethy, Kalaivani, Fiscal Space for Social Protection and the SDGs: Options to Expand Social Investments in 187 Countries (May 7, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Isabel Ortiz (Contact Author)

United Nations - International Labour Organization (ILO) ( email )

ILO HQ, Route des Morillons 4
Geneva, 1211
+41227996226 (Phone)


Initiative for Policy Dialogue ( email )

Columbia University
New York, NY
United States


Matthew Cummins

UNICEF ( email )

PO Box 44145
Nairobi, Nairobi 00100

Kalaivani Karunanethy

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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