Request for research proposals
Social protection, taxation, and crises

UNU-WIDER is seeking proposals for original research on social protection and taxation in times of crises in developing countries. Proposals from individuals (or groups of individuals) as well as non-profit organizations are welcome. Submission deadline: 31 January 2022, 23:59 UTC+2

See full Request for Research Proposals (pdf)


Under its Domestic Revenue Mobilization programme, the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics (UNU-WIDER), with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), is requesting research proposals to improve the understanding of social protection and taxation in times of crises in the developing world.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, policymakers around the world sought to create a more solid financial system. A key part of the building process was to stress test the existing financial structures to detect and alleviate vulnerabilities. Beyond and above the difficulties in the financial markets, crises severely affect people’s employment, incomes, and livelihoods — and these harmful impacts are more dangerous when people are poor and in a vulnerable position to begin with. This has become very clear during the latest worldwide crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been rapid policy responses in many parts of the world in expanding existing, adding new social protection schemes and reducing tax loads on households. Yet many developing countries still lack a systematic approach to social protection and taxation, which would enable automatic and speedy assistance when crises hit across the entire income distribution. Thorough stress-testing of social protection and tax policies is therefore of crucial importance, and it is tremendously timely.

Against this backdrop, UNU-WIDER announces a Request for Research Proposals (RFRP) on social protection and taxation in times of crises in developing countries. We welcome research proposals that promote better understanding about proper crisis response, and the way social protection and tax systems can be made more sustainable. The research topics may include (but are not restricted to):

  • How can tax-benefit systems support countries’ paths through and out of economic crises?
  • How can tax-benefit systems act as (automatic) stabilizers in crises in a developing country context?
  • How can tax systems be and how have tax systems been levered in times of crisis to provide fiscal space necessary to buffer (at least the most) detrimental developments in terms of poverty and inequality?
  • How can the benefit system support the most vulnerable groups through crises and beyond?
  • What are the relevant merits of different targeting criteria and the extent of universalism in times of crises? How do proxies currently used to target benefits reflect changes in households’ conditions in times of crises?
  • Which political economy frameworks are beneficial for the development of stress resistant tax and social protection systems?
Offer and expectations

UNU-WIDER invites proposals from qualified researchers for papers examining the questions as outlined above. Papers that pass initial screening will be considered for publication under UNU-WIDER copyright in the WIDER Working Paper Series. In addition, papers further selected by the editorial team will subsequently culminate in a book proposal for an edited volume with a world-class academic publisher. The working papers need to be written in English and limited to 10,000 words or less (inclusive of text, tables, figures, footnotes, references, etc. — further information is found here) as this is likely to be the chapter specification of the planned book volume.

Papers may use either theoretical or empirical approaches with a focus on policies affecting households. Suitable empirical methods also include tax-benefit microsimulation, and UNU-WIDER has made microsimulation models available for selected countries via its SOUTHMOD programme.

Note that the topic of the request is not short-run humanitarian relief measures and analysis or evaluation thereof.

Proposals from individuals (or groups of individuals) as well as non-profit organizations are welcome. Applications from women and developing country researchers are particularly encouraged. Proposals may address one or more of the research questions.

Read the full announcement for more information.

Proposed timeline
16 November 2021 Launch of request for research proposals
15 January 2022 Final opportunity to send questions on the request for research proposals
31 January 2022 Proposal submission deadline
15 February 2022 Target date for informing on funding decisions
1 June 2022 Target date for submission of first drafts of papers
15 June 2022 Target date for work-in-progress workshop
Proposal submission procedure

Submission of proposals is done electronically by using the online form on the RFRP announcement page. There are three forms to select from: one for individuals, another for groups of individuals, and a third for non-profit organizations. Details (such as address, gender, nationality, date of birth) of all researchers involved will need to be entered to the form and the cover page, the proposal, and short CVs (five pages or less) of researcher/s uploaded. Please familiarize yourself with the form in advance.

Any questions on the proposal process should be sent to by 15 January 2022. All queries and responses will be published on the RFRP announcement page. Selected answers will be updated on a rolling basis.