Adequacy of Benefits

From a rights-based perspective, the level of benefits provided must be adequate. According to the CESCR’s General Comment 19 (para 22), “Benefits, whether in cash or in kind, must be adequate in amount and duration in order that everyone may realize his or her rights to family protection and assistance, an adequate standard of living and adequate access to health care, as contained in articles 10, 11 and 12 of the Covenant”.

ILO Conventions and Recommendations also set out the principles of adequacy and predictability for the design and implementation of social protection benefits (see for example Recommendation No. 202, para 3c).  States parties must pay full respect to the principle of human dignity, which is also stated in the preamble of the Covenant, and the principle of non-discrimination, so as to avoid any adverse effect on the levels of benefits and the form in which they are provided. Methods applied should ensure the adequacy of benefits. The adequacy criteria should be monitored regularly to ensure that beneficiaries are able to afford the goods and services they require to realize their Covenant rights. When a person makes contributions to a social security scheme that provides benefits to cover lack of income, there should be a reasonable relationship between earnings, paid contributions, and the amount of relevant benefit.”

Nature and level of benefits
ILO social security instruments state that social protection benefits should, at a minimum, guarantee effective access to at least essential health care and basic income security as defined at the national level (Recommendation No. 202, para 4). In addition, international standards recognize that, while the definition of the level of the benefit is the prerogative of the State, it should take into account the needs of the population, as well as the capacity to finance and deliver the benefits and services. This implies that, at a minimum, benefit levels should ensure effective access to essential goods and services, defined as necessary at the national level. Taken together, cash and in kind benefits should at a minimum secure protection against poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion and enable a life in health and dignity (Recommendation No. 202, paras 2 and 8b).

Regarding the right to health care specifically, adequacy is measured in terms of affordability, availability, accessibility, and quality.  Affordability means that those in need of health care should not face hardship or an increased risk of poverty due to seeking and accessing health care. Availability and quality of services are refer to the State’s institutional capacity to respond to people’s needs in a manner that is adequate (for example, in terms of the range and quality of services provided). (See standards of accessibility, adaptability, and acceptability and Recommendation No. 202, para 5a)

In terms of cash benefits, the minimum benefit levels in Recommendation No. 202 can be considered adequate if and when they provide beneficiaries with the means to a life in dignity. Depending on the national context, this may mean that levels correspond to the monetary value of a set of necessary goods and services, national poverty lines or income thresholds for social assistance. Social protection for children can be considered adequate when benefits are fixed at a level that is sufficient to ensure access to nutrition, education, care and other necessary goods and services (Recommendation No. 202, para 5b).

Long-term benefits can be considered adequate when they are provided in a manner that also protects against the erosion of their purchasing power (Convention No. 102, Articles 65 and 66). This means including provisions in law and in practice which secure the periodic adjustment of benefits with changes in living costs.

Service quality
The impact of social protection initiatives on beneficiaries’ standard of living depends on quality social services. Service delivery relies, to a large extent, on the efficient functioning of other public services such as electricity, education, emergency services, environmental protection, fire service, gas, health care, law enforcement, military, postal service, public broadcasting, public security, public transportation, public housing, social services, telecommunications, town planning, waste management, and the water supply network. For example, the benefit from a non-contributory pension can be cancelled out by the burden posed by healthcare-related costs. As highlighted by Recommendation No. 202, high quality public services are essential to the delivery of social protection systems (para 3n), in particular with regard to ensuring access to health, education and care services.

The UN Guide Good Governance Practices for the Protection of Human Rights states that governments are “responsible for delivering a variety of services to their populations, including education, health and social welfare services. The provision of these services is essential to the protection of human rights such as the right to housing, health, education and food.” From a rights-based perspective, there is no doubt that service provision by public or private actors is critical for the realization of all human rights, particularly social and economic rights. According to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “certain services, such as policing or administering justice, focus directly on the protection of individual freedoms and others, such as education, health and food, have a markedly social character which is essential for building the human capital necessary for sustainable development and the realization of economic and social rights” (Report on the 25th regular session of the Human Rights Council).

Expert Commentaries

The Right to Employment and Social Protection in Rural Settings: The example of the Indian MGNREGA

The right to social security and to an adequate standard of living is centrally codified in numerous international human rights instruments and international social security standards, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 22 and 25), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 9 and 11), as well as in the […]

For an Alternative Framing of Pension Policy

In discussing the ways to protect and promote the human right to social security, particularly the right to old age security, Amartya Sen’s work provides important insights. Sen (2009) argues for understanding human rights as powerful moral claims, transcending a legal interpretation of these rights (as legal demands, motivation or ideals for legislation). There is […]

Key Issues

Maternity protection and parental leave entitlements

Maternity protection includes protection against suspension or loss of income during maternity leave, and access to maternal health care. Maternity leave supported with cash benefits to fully or partially replace women’s earnings during the final stages of pregnancy and after childbirth is of critical importance for the well-being of pregnant women, new mothers and their […]

Legal Instruments

Ley 25.994

Crea un sistema de jubilación anticipada. El monto del haber que percibirán los beneficiarios de la Jubilación Anticipada es el equivalente al cincuenta por ciento (50%) del correspondiente al beneficio de jubilación al que tendrá derecho al cumplir la edad requerida de acuerdo a la ley 24.241, no pudiendo en ningún caso resultar inferior al […]

Ley I – n° 132 Régimen de licencia con goce íntegro de haberes por hijo con discapacidad.

El artículo 1 establece un régimen de licencia especial de hasta ciento ochenta (180) días con goce íntegro de haberes por hijo con discapacidad, en los términos del Artículo 2 de la Ley XIX – N° 23 (antes Ley 2707).

Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

A reference for the development of social security systems, Convention No. 102 is the flagship of the up-to-date social security Conventions since it is deemed to embody the internationally accepted definition of the very principle of social security.  Convention No. 102 is unique for both its conceptual formulation of social security, and the guidance it provides for […]

Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

Recommendation No. 202 is the first international instrument to offer guidance to countries to close social security gaps and progressively achieve universal protection through the establishment and maintenance of comprehensive social security systems. To this aim, the Recommendation calls for (1) the implementation, as a priority, of social protection floors (SPF) as a fundamental element […]

Legal Cases

Women’s Right to Maternal Health Services in Uganda

Nature of the Case Four petitioners—including the Center for Health, Human Rights & Development (CEHURD) and two family members of  women who died during childbirth—appeal the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of their petition in which they alleged that the government violated the Constitution by failing to provide basic maternal health services and that health workers’ negligence […]

The Right to Sound Education in the City of New York

Nature of the Case Challenge against state school funding system on the basis of the Education Article of the New York Constitution (Article XI § 1). The case addressed a range of issues including, the constitutional right to a sound basic education, adequacy of school funding, budgetary allocations, and the nature of remedies. Summary In […]

Reduction of pensions for condemned prisoners in Azerbaijan

The Court was requested to examine whether Article 109 para. 1 of the Law of Azerbaijan Republic On Pension Maintenance of Citizens, allowing an 80 per cent reduction of pensions for entitled persons who are incarcerated, was consistent with the right to social protection, contained in Article 38 of the Constitution of Azerbaijan. According to […]

Resources

Feasibility study of Establishing a Maternity Social Insurance Cash Benefit Scheme

Feasibility study of establishing a maternity social insurance cash benefit scheme in the Republic of Zambia.

Income Security for Older Persons in India: A Purposive Assessment of Coverage, Funding and Benefits

Although India is still a relatively young country, there are currently 116 million older persons in India and their number is increasing rapidly. Income security for older persons can become an increasing concern. Coverage of contributory and non-contributory schemes is still low in India. Public sector workers are well covered through a non-contributory pension scheme. […]

Social Protection for Child Rights and Well-Being in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (Advocacy Brief)

Social protection can help guarantee adequate living standards for children and contribute to the realization of their rights. Investing in it helps States build more cohesive societies, more resilient communities and stronger economies. To fight child poverty and social and economic vulnerability, countries need to develop well-integrated social protection systems that speak to children’s specific […]

Social Protection for Child Rights and Well-Being in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

The theme of the 2015 Social Monitor, Social Protection for Child Rights and Well-being in Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, aims to focus the attention of policy makers on the successes as well as the gaps in delivering on their commitments to protect children’s rights. The specific objective of the analysis […]

Builders’ Social Fund: A bipartite sectoral approach for construction workers (Romania)

Since 1998, Romania’s Builders’ Social Fund, or Casa Socială a Constructorilor (CSC), has provided income protection for workers in the construction sector during the interruption of work in winter. The CSC is a non-profit organization based on a sectoral social agreement. It operates on a bipartite basis. It is governed by a general assembly which […]

Provision of Education by Non-state Actors in Arab Countries: Benefits and risks

Basic social services such as education, water and sanitation, health care and housing are intended to meet essential human needs. States are responsible for guaranteeing equal access to these services, either through direct provision or through the regulation of services provided by the private sector and civil society organizations. Following independence, most Arab countries built […]

How Does Nepal’s Child Grant Work for Dalit Children and Their Families? A mixed-methods assessment of programme delivery and impact in Bajura and Saptari

This study examines the delivery and impact of Nepal’s Child Grant, so as to identify implementation barriers and recommend ways to improve effectiveness. The cash transfer is targeted at all households with children aged up to five years in the Karnali zone and at poor Dalit households in the rest of the country. Its objective […]

Nepal’s Child Grant – How is it Working for Dalit Families? (Briefing Paper)

Social protection has become an increasingly prominent public policy tool in Nepal over the past two decades. Since the insurgency’s end in 2006, the government, with the support of development partners, has explicitly integrated social protection programming into its broader post-conflict development and reconstruction agenda (Holmes and Uphadya, 2009; Koehler, 2011). This study analyses the […]

The Right to Adequate Housing (Fact Sheet No. 21)

International human rights law recognizes everyone’s right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing. Despite the central place of this right within the global legal system, well over a billion people are not adequately housed. Millions around the world live in life- or health-threatening conditions, in overcrowded slums and informal settlements, or in […]

Provision of Basic Healthcare Services by Non-State Actors in Arab Countries: Benefits and Risks

Basic social services such as education, water and sanitation, healthcare and housing are intended to meet essential human needs. States are given the task of guaranteeing equal access to these services, either through direct provision or through the regulation of services provided by other institutions, such as businesses or civil society organizations. Following independence, most […]