Completed Research

Cash Transfers in Palestine: Building Blocks of Social Protection

University of Toronto

Inequality remains stark between the West Bank and Gaza, with over 50 per cent of the population in Gaza living in poverty. In 2010, the state’s Ministry of Social Development implemented the Palestinian National Cash Transfer Program (PNCTP), aiming to enhance participants’ ability to meet their basic needs. Families are selected by means tests and the benefit is quantified to cover 50 per cent of the household poverty gap. The PNCTP reaches 119,000 families (41% of the total targeted), of whom 74,000 live in the Gaza Strip. The program targets those furthest from opportunity, with 84 per cent of beneficiaries reported in the lowest income quintile.

The Hard to Reach

Families in the lowest income quintile in the West Bank and Gaza regions.

Key Takeaways

The PNCTP reaches 119,000 families with income support, and according to World Bank an estimated 84 per cent of beneficiaries are from the lowest income quintile and 70 per cent were among the poorest 10 per cent of the population.

  1. Measuring poverty, and in turn identifying those who are most impoverished, requires metrics that cannot be captured through only formal mechanisms, such as income slips or tax returns. Poverty is multidimensional and the experience of impoverishment is shaped by many factors, including wages and income, but also other variables such as family size, household assets, other means of productivity, level of education, and so on. The PNCTP recognized the multiple dimensions of poverty and institutionalized the Proxy Means Test Formula to evaluate program eligibility.
  2. Effective reach in the PNCTP results from the balance between a centralized and standardized process of identification with more localized and flexible approaches to assessing program eligibility.
  3. The provision of cash transfers alone is not enough; to reach those who would otherwise be left behind requires active reach on the front line, often involving informal, non-standardized, and local efforts.
  4. At the core of the program is a relatively sophisticated management information system, the Portalgate, which is the centralized repository of data collected from poor households. The centralized database allows program managers to employ a more technocratic approach to eligibility assessment, mitigating corruption and favoritism.


This research was made possible through the Reach Alliance, a partnership between the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. Research was also funded by the Canada Research Chairs program and the Ralph and Roz Halbert Professorship of Innovation at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. We express our gratitude and appreciation to those we met and interviewed in Palestine, including government officials, front-line social service professionals, civil society activists, and scholars. Your work and dedication are inspiring.

This research was vetted and received approval from the Ethics Review Board at the University of Toronto.