Stories by Bimbola Oyesola, 08033246177
Despite significant progress in the extension of social protection in many parts of the world, the human right to social security is not yet a reality for a majority of the world’s population, says a new flagship report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
According to new data presented in the World Social Protection Report 2017/2019: Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, only 45 per cent of the world’s population is effectively covered by at least one social benefit, while the remaining 55 per cent, four billion people, are left unprotected.
The new research also shows that only 29 per cent of the global population enjoys access to comprehensive social security, a small increase compared to 27 per cent in 2014/2015, while the other 71 per cent, or 5.2 billion people, are not, or only partially, protected.
“The lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to ill-health, poverty, inequality and social exclusion throughout their lifecycle. Denying this human right to four billion people worldwide is a significant obstacle to economic and social development. While many countries have come a long way in strengthening their social protection systems, major efforts are still necessary to ensure that the right to social protection becomes a reality for all,” said ILO director-general, Guy Ryder.
The report recommends an increase of public expenditure on social protection to extend social protection coverage, especially in Africa, Asia and the Arab States, to provide at least a basic social protection floor to all.
It highlights that universal social protection contributes to eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, promoting economic growth and social justice, as well as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and shows how many developing countries have developed universal schemes. The report stresses the need to extend social protection to workers in the informal economy as a way of formalising and improving their working conditions.
“However, short-term austerity policies continue undermining long-term development efforts. Fiscal consolidation adjustments have significant negative social impacts and jeopardise the achievement of the SDGs,” said Isabel Ortiz, director of the ILO Social Protection Department.
“Fiscal space for extending social protection exists even in the poorest countries. Governments should be proactive in exploring all possible financing options to promote the SDGs and national development through decent jobs and social protection,” she said.
The ILO report looks at specific aspects of social protection, providing global and regional findings based on new data in the following areas:
Social protection for children:
The report shows that only 35 per cent of children worldwide enjoy effective access to social protection. Almost two thirds of children globally, 1.3 billion children, are not covered, most of them living in Africa and Asia.
Other findings in this area include the fact only 21.8 per cent of unemployed workers are covered by unemployment benefits, while 152 million unemployed workers remain without coverage.
New ILO data also shows that only 27.8 per cent of persons with severe disabilities worldwide receive a disability benefit.
Social protection for older men and women also shows that, worldwide, 68 per cent of people above retirement age receive an old-age pension, which is associated with the expansion of both non-contributory and contributory pensions in many middle- and low-income countries.
With expenditure on pensions and other benefits for older people accounting for 6.9 per cent of GDP on average with large regional variations, the report underlines that benefit levels are often low and not enough to push older people out of poverty. This trend is often fuelled by austerity measures.