MPP Specialisation: Social Protection Policy


About the specialisation

Poverty, vulnerability, inequality and exclusion are global social challenges requiring comprehensive human development interventions and initiatives. In the past two decades, social protection policy has gained momentum as a necessary component for improving well-being and creating inclusive societies. It is the set of public and private policies and programmes aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating economic and social vulnerabilities to poverty and deprivation. It helps individuals and societies to build resilience to risks, achieve equity and utilise opportunities. Social protection systems are designed to provide protection against the risks and needs associated with – among others – unemployment, parental responsibilities, sickness and healthcare, invalidity, loss of a spouse or parent, old age, housing issues and social exclusion.

This specialisation provides an interdisciplinary and in-depth examination of social protection policies, frameworks, systems, interventions and instruments to give future policy analysts and practitioners a toolbox to tackle the relevant, challenging issues in public policy. It consists of applied courses backed by traditional and emerging theories while incorporating local, regional and international contexts.

Students are exposed to a spectrum of theory and real-life case studies from micro and macro perspectives. They learn how to identify social challenges from a public policy lens and use methods and measurement techniques to design, evaluate and analyse intervention and implementation options.

The specialisation covers topics such as poverty and inequality, social risks and vulnerabilities, the political economy of social protection, policy interventions and instruments, the nature and economics of welfare state models, rights-based approaches, demographic, economic and social challenges, social design and social budgeting.

SDGs covered:





Related projects

At our institute, we regularly collaborate with international organisations on projects related to social protection, poverty and inequality. A few recent examples:

World Bank: Systematic review of economic multiplier effects of cash transfers (2022)
UNICEF Kyrgyzstan: Simulating the impact of the Ukraine crisis on child poverty (2022)
International Labour Organisation Mongolia: Extending social protection to herders with enhanced shock responsiveness – A Study on Herders’ Behaviour Towards Social and Health Insurance (2021-2022)
World Food Programme: Essential Needs Analysis & Programming: A global review of WFP’s approach and experience to-date (2021-2022)
UNICEF Montenegro: International institutional consultancy to provide technical expertise to develop policy simulation tools for redistributive social policy scenarios in Montenegro (2020-2021)

Testimonials from alumni

Jennifer Waidler
2011-2012 MPP cohort:
“I selected the Social Protection Policy specialisation because I was interested in social protection and policies and programmes that can reduce poverty.

I learned a lot about poverty measurement, social protection policies, and quantitative analysis using STATA. The most valuable experience was learning how to analyse large datasets to create poverty indices and to estimate effects of programmes on well-being (my thesis focused on assessing the impacts of a cash transfer programme on poverty).”

Guido Heins
2018-2019 MPP cohort:
“I always knew that I was interested in policy, but until my master’s, I thought my next step would have been toward political science and foreign policy. Nevertheless, while participating in the master’s, I understood that Social Protection would bring me strong technical tools in designing and analysing policies. Only during the specialisation I discovered the actual value of our social protection studies, focusing on reducing inequalities and promoting real policy change to improve the well-being of the most disadvantaged, which is today my main career path driver.

During the specialisation courses, I gained a deep knowledge of social protection systems and developed my skills in evaluating the various dimensions (and measurements) of vulnerability and the long-term cost and impacts of social protection policies. On one side, poverty assessments provide evidence to spur policy changes; on the other, cost assessments and their contextualisation into the government budget define the financial feasibility of policy changes. While the basic STATA knowledge was already provided during the first part of the academic year, the specialisation allowed us to deepen our statistical knowledge by teaching us different tools to conduct social protection programme analysis. While the courses were challenging and intense, the solidarity and support provided by the other classmates made the specialisation even more enjoyable and allowed me to develop a great international network (still, today, I am gladly working with some classmates and friends from the specialisation).”

Career Perspectives

Our graduates are currently employed in a wide range of professions in the public, non-profit and private sectors. Examples include:

Social Protection Specialist, World Bank
Senior Economist, World Bank
Project Manager, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)
Social Protection Project Officer, ILO – International Labour Organisation
Economist, UNCTAD
Senior Consultant, Control Risks
Special Appointee, International Monetary Fund IMF
Innovative Finance & Programme Officer, Waste NL
Operations Officer, IFC – International Finance Corporation
Administrator, EUROCONTROL
Associate, PwC
Economic Policy Officer, Uganda Manufacturers Association
Programme Evaluator, QURES Quality Research and Support
Investment Manager, British International Investment
Economist, Ministry of Agriculture of Malawi & African Development Bank 

Main teaching staff

Prof. Dr. Franziska Gassmann
Dr. Zina Nimeh
Charles Crevier (Programme Manager Social Protection, Governance and Tripartism at the International Training Centre of the ILO)

Learn more about the specialisation

Our course catalogue page on the Maastricht University website
Registration / application information