Social Spending

"Adequate, efficient, and fiscally sustainable social spending is a key lever for achieving inclusive growth and development objectives, and we are working to operationalize the recently adopted strategy for the Fund’s engagement on social spending. "

–The Managing Director’s Global Policy Agenda, 2019


Helping Countries Strengthen Social Spending

Social spending is a key ingredient for fostering inclusive growth and stable societies. How can countries raise more resources for social spending and make the most of the scarce resources they have? And are there best practices when it comes to making sure that social spending is adequate, efficient and financially sustainable?

Opening Remarks:

Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director, IMF


Ali Aslan, TV Presenter and Journalist


Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International

Ian Goldin, Professor of Globalisation and Development, Oxford University  

Deborah Greenfield,  Deputy Director-General for Policy, ILO  

Key Points:

Financing social spending. Panelists agreed on the importance of progressive tax systems in providing adequate resources for social spending. Byanyima, Goldin, Swan noted the need to address the race to the bottom of taxation, one of the failings of globalization. Greenfield stressed the role of the private sector in supplementing financing for social spending, while Byanyima cautioned that private solutions often hurt those on the margins of society.

Success stories. Swan underscored that, in terms of best practice, equity in tax systems and expenditure is critical for ensuring buy-in for tax reform. Goldin highlighted Denmark and France as good examples of countries that have been able to successfully tax and redistribute income, positively impacting the lives of their citizens. Byanyima noted that Ethiopia, even with its limited resources, was successful at expanding education to all children. 

Role of key stakeholders. Byanyima urged the Fund to do more to safeguard social spending in times of austerity and to move away from advising countries to adopt consumption taxes. Greenfield highlighted the focus of the ILO on universal social protection and noted the need for the ILO to accelerate its programs. Goldin observed that academia, because of its long-term view, is well placed to look at the global experience and help countries take advantage of lessons learned in providing effective social spending.


Big Data: Big Stories: Housing Markets—A Stich in Time Could be a Lifeline

Financial systems face a host of risks from all corners of the economy, and regulators use tools to contain these. Over the years, a variety of measures and regulations have been tried to curtail booms and busts in housing markets, but which ones might be the most effective in keeping housing markets stable? 

Big Data: Big Stories: Global Growth, Lagging Sub-National Regions

Global growth is under pressure and even within countries, performance varies. Long-term unemployment rates are persistently higher on average in worse-performing regions within advanced economies. What kinds of reforms can help these lagging regions become more resilient? 


A Strategy for IMF Engagement on Social Spending

Publication Date: June 14, 2019

Interest in social spending issues has intensified over the last decade. This reflects concerns about rising inequality and the need to support vulnerable groups, especially in the aftermath of the global financial crisis. In line with this, the Fund has also increased its engagement on social spending issues. This paper outlines a strategy to guide IMF engagement on social spending issues going forward.

Case Studies

Publication Date: June 14, 2019

This paper uses case studies to explore the nature and extent of past IMF engagement on social spending issues and to draw lessons for future engagement.

Background Paper

Publication Date: June 14, 2019

This Supplement presents an account of the extensive consultations and the results of various analyses that supported the development of “A Strategy for IMF Engagement on Social Spending.”