Over the last thirty years, economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction rates in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have been much lower than in East Asia. However, thanks to democratization, the end of structural adjustment policies and renewed economic growth since 2002, LAC has succeeded in reducing poverty and inequality, one of the region’s seemingly intractable problems. Growing public social investment and the extension of social protection have both supported this development. Social protection measures have included innovative poverty reduction programmes, such as conditional cash transfers and noncontributory pensions for the elderly and disabled. Today, building on this progress, several LAC countries are moving towards comprehensive social protection systems, which entail the adoption of universal policies and safeguarding citizens’ social and economic rights. Given the challenges that many Southeast Asian countries are still facing in this respect, it is thus worth assessing the extent to which social protection has contributed to reducing poverty and inequality in LAC.