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4 billion people worldwide are without any social protection
by ILO: World Social Protection Report 2017-2019
11:36am 30th Nov, 2017
29 November 2017 (ILO News)
New ILO report shows that massive efforts are still needed to ensure that the right to social security becomes a reality for all.
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 Organization (ILO).
According to new data presented in the World Social Protection Report 2017/19: Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals , only 45 per cent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social benefit, while the remaining 55 per cent– 4 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 4 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 formalizing 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 jeopardize 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 added.
Main findings
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.
On average, just 1.1 per cent of GDP is spent on child and family benefits for children aged 0-14, pointing to significant underinvestment in children.
Cash transfers for children have expanded in low- and middle-income countries over the past decades. However, coverage and benefit levels often remain insufficient. A number of countries even reduced social protection for children in the wake of fiscal consolidation policies.
Social protection for women and men of working age
Social protection coverage for persons of working age is still limited. Only 41.1 per cent of mothers with newborns receive a maternity benefit, and 83 million new mothers remain uncovered.
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
The research says 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.
Some states are reversing their pension privatizations due to the fact that privatization policies did not deliver the expected results. Countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Poland are returning to public solidarity-based systems.
Universal health coverage
The report shows that the right to health is not a reality yet in many parts of the world, especially in rural areas where 56 per cent of the population lacks health coverage, compared to 22 per cent in urban areas.
An estimated additional 10 million health workers would be needed to achieve universal health coverage and ensure human security, including in emergency situations such as an Ebola crisis.
Long-term care – mostly needed by older people – still excludes more than 48 per cent of the world’s population, with women disproportionately affected.
Only 5.6 per cent of the global population lives in countries that provide long-term care coverage based on national legislation for the whole population.
Because of this, an estimated 57 million unpaid “voluntary” workers provide the bulk of long-term care coverage. Many of them are women who carry most of the burden of informal care for family members. More investment in care services could alleviate old-age poverty and generate millions of jobs to address the shortage of skilled care workers, estimated at 13.6 million globally.
The World Social Protection Report offers a broad range of global, regional and country data on social protection coverage, benefits and public expenditures on social protection. By presenting new estimates on effective social protection coverage, it provides the 2015 baseline for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 1.3.1.
Adopted in 2015, the UN’s SDGs reflect the joint commitment of countries to “implement nationally appropriate social protection systems for all, including floors” for reducing and preventing poverty (SDG 1.3). This commitment to universalism reaffirms the global agreement on the extension of social security achieved by the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation No. 202 , adopted by governments, workers and employers from 185 countries in 2012.
* Access the report: , executive summary: Social Protection & Human Rights:
Sept. 2017
Options to expand social investments in 187 countries. (ILO, UN Women, Unicef)
Fiscal space for social protection and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Options to expand social investments in 187 countries, by Isabel Ortiz, Matthew Cummins, Kalaivani Karunanethy.
It is often argued that spending on social protection is not affordable and that government expenditure should be adjusted during austerity periods. However, even in the poorest countries, there exist options to expand financing and generate resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), realize human rights, and invest in women and children.
This 80 page paper highlights eight financing alternatives to increase the overall size of a country’s budget. Given the importance of public investments for human rights, jobs, and social protection, it is imperative that governments explore all possible alternatives to expand fiscal space to promote national socio-economic development and the SDGs.
Development actors can make use of this policy paper to advocate and encourage social dialogues among national stake-holders on financing for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
* Access the report:
* The human right to social security; International Social Security Association:
Sept. 2017
Increase social protection for millions of people displaced by protracted crises. (Unicef, WFP, UNHCR, IDS, EU, agencies)
The International Conference on Social Protection in Contexts of Fragility and Forced Displacement takes place at a time when a mounting number of protracted crises around the world are outstripping the capacity of humanitarian action to respond effectively.
Worldwide, in 2015, an estimated 65 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other human rights violations – an increase of almost 6 million compared to 2014.
The number is projected to keep growing. According to figures from the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, the percentage of the world''s poor living in fragile situations is expected to grow from 43 per cent today to 64 per cent by 2030.
“Humanitarian needs today outpace anything we have seen before, stretching our response capacity to its limit. We cannot continue to think only short-term; tackling humanitarian basic survival needs is essential but not enough. We have to act together to deliver on the promise of leaving no one behind. Social protection has the potential to achieve this. It can put the humanitarian-development nexus into practice. By working hand in hand, humanitarian and development actors can offer the most vulnerable people everywhere a perspective of hope, and a dignified future," says European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides.
The experience of recent years has shown that social protection policies can greater foster self-reliance and resilience in vulnerable and displaced people and can even help pre-empt crises, by reducing poverty and addressing root causes of displacement, such as food insecurity.
However, in many of the worst-affected countries, protective systems are non-existent, weak or not fully available to displaced persons. The conference examines the best way to strengthen social protection systems in a way that also enables displaced people to both benefit from and strengthen local economies.
“It is alarming that today global inequality between people is at its highest level in history. This is why I am actively promoting employment and social inclusion to reduce inequalities, particularly between men and women." says Neven Mimica, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.
The conference brings together aid and development specialists from almost 40 countries, including Afghanistan, Ecuador, Iraq, Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey and Uganda.
“There’s growing evidence that social protection – providing cash transfers and other direct assistance during emergencies – not only protects children and families during crises. It also helps them and their communities to get back on their feet and build their futures.
Social protection is especially important for families and children who have been displaced from their homes and homelands, helping them provide for their children without draining their very limited resources,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.”
# Social Protection is the set of policies and programs aimed at protecting people against poverty, vulnerability, economic risks and social exclusion throughout their lifecycle, with a particular emphasis towards vulnerable groups.
Resilience: resilience is the ability of individuals, households, communities, national institutions and systems to prevent, absorb and recover from shocks, while continuing to function and adapt in a way that supports long-term prospects for sustainable development, peace and security, and the attainment of human rights.
The conference is organized by UNICEF and the EU Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, together with partner UN agencies and governments including: FAO, Finland, Germany, SIDA, UK aid, UNHCR and WFP.
Social Protection:
Over the last two decades, an increasing number of low and middle-income countries worldwide have started to put social protection programmes in place, including cash transfers and linkages to access to basic goods and services. Extensive evidence demonstrates that social protection helps reduce poverty, inequality, childhood deprivation and has long-term positive impacts on development.
The provision of direct income support to those poor and marginalised can, under certain circumstances, generate greater trust in the state and support for public institutions. Social protection can also increase local economic growth and micro-economic activity and even stimulate aggregate growth.
When properly designed, social protection also has potential to decrease inequalities, for example, gender and geographic disparities.
It can also strengthen resilience: enhancing the capacity of poor households to better cope, respond and withstand disasters better.
As part of the commitments under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1, the global community pledges to expand the coverage of social protection measures for all, and to achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by 2030. This expansion must include scale up of social protection in contexts of fragility and forced displacement to ensure no one is left behind.
Development actors recognised the importance of social protection at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), and committed through the Grand Bargain to “increase social protection programmes and strengthen national and local systems and coping mechanisms in order to build resilience in fragile contexts.”
While establishing effective social protection in the context of protracted instability and displaced populations is complex, experience demonstrates that it can and does play an important role both in humanitarian and developmental outcomes.
* Social Protection documents from the Conference: FAO publications:
Sept. 2017
Social protection shows potential to promote active citizenship - New Unicef research links Social Rights to Citizen Engagement through Accountability Measures.
A new UNICEF Innocenti study, Linking Social Rights to Active Citizenship for the Most Vulnerable: The Role of Rights and Accountability in the ‘Making’ and ‘Shaping’ of Social Protection, considers how social protection can address vulnerability while encouraging active citizenship.
The paper shines light on how social protection programmes can be informed and developed through active citizenship measures which simultaneously reduce vulnerability of the poor and strengthen accountability measures that empower citizens to voice their concerns.
The Innocenti Working Paper demonstrates how social protection programmes can promote social accountability mechanisms that enhance citizen-state participation.
“In many countries with established social protection policies, there are usually standalone programmes without transformative effects. Social protection has the potential for so much more – to give people a voice in society – and that’s what we’re trying to measure here,” said co-author Richard de Groot.
“A lot of people know what it means to be an active citizen – holding authorities accountable, protesting to achieve goals, etc. – but there is a small proportion of people actually doing this,” said de Groot. “Since social protection targets the most vulnerable populations, including those without a voice in society, if implemented well, social protection has the potential to expand their voices and participation in society.”
Social protection for active citizenship aims to create intrinsic benefits that promote citizen engagement, ideally creating a pathway for citizens to evolve from consumers and users in invited spaces to makers and shapers claiming spaces to voice their concerns to the State.
Looking at evidence from three countries – Brazil, India, and Ghana – the study aims to show how social rights vary across countries and how different cultural contexts and programmes contribute to the stimulation of justice-based claims.
In Ghana, where a higher dependence on aid provision exists, justice-based social protection is in its infancy. However, progress promoting active citizenship is seen emerging on a local level in the form of beneficiary demand and feedback on social protection programmes including the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer programme. Ghana’s national social protection policy, launched in June 2016, helps to promote active citizenship and beneficiary rights through accountability measures embedded in the policy.
In India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme provides a framework to promote citizen rights and entitlements through accountability and transparency measures enabling citizens to voice their concerns.
In Brazil, the Bolsa Família programmes grew from the municipal level, encouraging citizens to engage and to pressure the state to meet its commitments.
“What we see at the moment is that in a lot of low-income countries, citizen engagement is very much closed and it is the government that decides what programmes happen and how,” de Groot added. “Through mutual reinforcement, programmes focusing on linking social rights to active citizenship allow the State to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens and the citizens to be more engaged in society.”
While the case studies show signs of promise, de Groot notes that despite rapid growth, most programmes currently only promote a “one-way invited space”.
“There is so much potential to move beyond this to get more engaged citizens claiming their space where the most vulnerable can get a double benefit from social protection programmes that help people to fulfil livelihoods and engage in society.”
(The research is co-authored by Richard de Groot, UNICEF Innocenti consultant, Tayllor Renee Spadafora of UNICEF Ghana, Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai University of Ghana, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Nikhil Wilmink from the Institute of Development Studies)

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