Cash transfers to elderly cut extreme poverty in Uganda

Wednesday February 27 2019

An elderly Ugandan. Cash transfers to elderly has reduced poverty among benefiting households. PHOTO | MORGAN MBABAZI | NMG


A study on the impact of Uganda’s unconditional cash transfers to the elderly has found that the monthly social protection programme has reduced poverty among benefiting households.

A monthly stipend of about Ush25,000 ($7) is given to the beneficiaries — citizens over the age of 65 under the scheme.

Some have reported using the money to help grandchildren buy educational materials like books while others have bought poultry and livestock, especially pigs.

This improvement in wellbeing is in direct contrast to the rest of the country, where vulnerability has increased overall, according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS) data.


Releasing the final results of the 2016/17 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS), Ben Mungyereza the Bureau of Statics executive director, said poverty in the country had increased by about two percentage points.


Since 2016, UBoS has twice revised the results of the UNHs, which initially showed the proportion of people living below the poverty line had increased from 19.7 per cent in 2012/13 to 27 per cent five years later.

On February 18, Mr Mungyereza announced that UBoS had settled on the final figure of 21.4 per cent to represent the proportion of Ugandans living below the poverty line.

While the rest of Uganda is grappling with increased poverty, a study conducted by Development Pathways — a research firm based in the United Kingdom — shows households benefiting from a programme called Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) bucking this trend.

The study found that in households with a member receiving a SAGE pension revealed that there was a 19 percentage point average reduction in poverty rates.

Bjorn Gelders, the head of social and economic analysis at development Pathways, adds that the study shows that SAGE contributed to a reduction in child labour and enabled adults to remain active longer.

Adults of working age in the SAGE recipient households were also found to have an improved chance of getting employment.

“The pension appears to enable older persons to stay active longer,” he said.


Household members’ ability to remain active longer rubbed off the children. The probability of children aged between 10 and 14 living with SAGE beneficiaries reported improved outcomes in school attendance. School attendance increased by seven percentage points.

Diloa Bailey-Athias a development economist, added that SAGE significantly increased the impact on household expenditure, a key proxy for overall living standards.

The study notes that in households with SAGE beneficiaries, expenditure per adult increased by 33.3 percentage points from an average of Ush45,011 ($12.2) to Ush60, 000 ($16.3).

The study which was commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development comes at a time when back home there is opposition to what has been described as the exportation of the dole to the Third World.

The dole, is considered to be an archaic welfare system that the developed world employed in the 1800s and 1900s to distribute money to people the government considered to be poor.