Universality of Protection

States parties to major human rights instruments related to economic, social and cultural rights such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) have an immediate minimum core obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, minimum essential levels of all economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to social security and the right to health for all members of society. These minimum essential levels are those which are crucial to securing an adequate standard of living through basic subsistence, essential primary health care, basic shelter and housing, and basic forms of education for all members of society. The ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) provides detailed guidance for the definition of the content of the right to social security under the ICESCR and regional instruments in various parts of the world. The basic social security guarantees constituting national social protection floors, according to the ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) can be considered as reflecting the minimum core content of the right to social security.

Even during times of severe resource constraints, when available resources are demonstrably inadequate, the obligation remains for States parties to demonstrate that every effort has been made to use all resources that are at its disposal in an effort to satisfy, as matter of priority, minimum essential levels and to protect the most disadvantaged and marginalized members or groups of society by adopting relatively low-cost, targeted programmes.

According to the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, the ICESCR requires States parties:

(a) To ensure access to a social security scheme that provides a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, foodstuffs, and the most basic forms of education. If a State party cannot provide this minimum level for all risks and contingencies within its maximum available resources, the Committee recommends that the State party, after a wide process of consultation, select a core group of social risks and contingencies;

(b) To ensure the right of access to social security systems or schemes on a non-discriminatory basis, especially for disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups;

(c) To respect existing social security schemes and protect them from unreasonable interference;

(d) To adopt and implement a national social security strategy and plan of action;

(e) To take targeted steps to implement social security schemes, particularly those that protect disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups;

(f) To monitor the extent of the realization of the right to social security (CESCR General Comment 19 para 59).

The Committee has noted that “in order for a State party to be able to attribute its failure to meet at least its minimum core obligations to a lack of available resources, it must demonstrate that every effort has been made to use all resources that are at its disposal in an effort to satisfy, as a matter of priority, these minimum obligations” (General Comment 19 para 60).

Progressive realization of the right to social protection

The concept of “progressive realization” describes a central aspect of States’ obligations to recognize and protect economic, social and cultural rights under international treaties. This principle is recognized both by the ICESCR and by ILO social security instruments. In terms of the right to social security, it means that States parties have an obligation to take appropriate measures to the maximum of their available resources towards the full realization of the right to social security. The ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation reiterates the commitment to universal protection, but recognizes that this objective may be reached progressively, giving priority to the implementation of social protection floors as a starting point for those countries that do not have a minimum level of social security guarantees (para 13, 1a). ILO’s Convention No. 102 also sets out the principle of progressive realization in allowing States to initially accept obligations under three of the nine branches of social security, while providing that Members should subsequently accept other branches and move gradually towards the full achievement of the Convention (Article 3).

Referring to their available resource is therefore an acknowledgement of the fact that realization of these rights can be hampered by a lack of resources. Equally, it means that a State’s compliance with its obligation to take appropriate measures is assessed with the consideration of resources—financial and others—available to it.

Although minimum essential levels of social protection such as those provided through national social protection floors should be financed by national resources to the extent possible (Recommendation No. 202, para. 12), “available” resources are not only the resources within a State, but also those available from the international community through international assistance. States that do not possess the necessary resources are obliged to seek assistance to ensure, at the very least, minimum essential levels of enjoyment of social protection. Measures taken should be as expeditious and effective as possible.

Resource constraints prompt many States to target the provision of social security benefits on specific groups of the population, generally the poorest. From a rights-based perspective, targeting should only be an instrument toward the progressive realization of universal coverage. When targeting becomes unavoidable because of resource constraints, the targeting mechanism should abide by the principles of equality and non-discrimination. This means, for example, that the eligibility criteria should be objective, reasonable and transparent, and that stigmatization of beneficiaries should be avoided.

According to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Committee), there is a strong presumption that retrogressive measures taken in relation to the right to social security are prohibited under the ICESCR. The Committee noted that, when adopting retrogressive measures, states must demonstrate that they have been introduced after the most careful consideration of all alternatives and that they are duly justified by reference to the totality of the rights provided for in the Covenant, in the context of the full use of the maximum available resources. If a State uses “resource constraints” as an explanation for any retrogressive measure, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights will assess the situation considering, inter alia, the country’s level of development, the severity of the breach, whether the situation concerned the enjoyment of the essential levels of human rights and whether or not the state had identified low-cost options or sought international assistance. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights writes that the ICESCR “implies a prohibition of measures that would diminish realization of the rights guaranteed by the Covenant, except when justified by certain strict criteria.” Retrogressive measures are those that would lead to a reversal in the enjoyment of rights recognized in the ICESCR. States are responsible for ensuring that their policy does not reduce access to social security.

Photo credit: “Homeworkers and their families, Malang, East Java, Indonesia” by ILO in Asia and the Pacific (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).

 

Expert Commentaries

Universal Basic Income – Necessary but not Sufficient?

The world of work is in the early years of a radical technology-driven transformation. In many ways this is not new – technology has always been a key factor in driving productivity, making some jobs obsolete and new ones necessary. Yet the pace of change has sped up since the First Industrial Revolution, with inventions […]

“Without my pension I would be dead for a long time”: social protection for older persons affected by HIV/AIDS

In the past 15 years, evidence has emerged on the role of social protection in mitigating older people’s vulnerability to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, evidence on older people as carers of orphaned grandchildren revealed their extraordinary commitment for their families, as well as their severe vulnerability, and highlighted the lack of […]

Legal Instruments

Reproductive Health Policy

The purpose of this Policy & Strategy document is to outline policy statements of the Ministry of Health in support of Reproductive Health including maternal and neonatal health, demonstrating its contribution to the achievement of improved health and wellbeing in Fiji. It maps out a framework of key strategic areas and activities to be implemented […]

Employment Act No. 14 (Modified 2000)

The 2000 modification of the Employment Act No. 14 establishes workers’ rights to maternity leave and maternity benefits.

Decreto 332 – Reforma al Código del trabajo

Reforma el artículo 29 del Código de trabajo, concediendo licencia por 3 días a los padres, por nacimiento o adopción.  

Decreto 376 – Reforma el Decreto 332

Decreto original no especificaba si la licencia debe otorgarse o no con goce del salario. Esta reforma establece que por esta licencia, el patrono estará obligado a reconocer una prestación económica equivalente al salario ordinario de tres días.  

Decreto N° 93, Ley de Maternidad y Paternidad responsable

Esta ley es especial y tiene por objeto establecer los mecanismos y el procedimiento para garantizar que toda niña y todo niño sean reconocidos legalmente por parte de sus padres y, para que cuando sea necesario, se determine con certeza jurídica la maternidad o paternidad, permitiendo con ello una maternidad y paternidad responsable.  

Constitución de la República del Ecuador.

En el Artículo 6, inciso 1 y 5 se establece que se promoverá la maternidad y paternidad responsable y la corresponsabilidad materna y paterna en el cuidado de los hijos. Por otra parte, en el artículo 333 se reconoce como labor productiva el trabajo no remunerado de autosustento y cuidado humano que se realiza en […]

Ley Orgánica reformatoria a la Ley Orgánica de servicio civil y carrera administrativa y de unificación y homologación de las remuneraciones del sector público y al Código del Trabajo.

Establece que toda servidora pública tiene derecho a una licencia con remuneración de 12 semanas por el nacimiento de su hija o hijo; en caso de nacimientos múltiples el plazo se extiende por 10 días adicionales. Por otra parte señala que el servidor público tiene derecho a licencia por paternidad con remuneración por 10 días […]

Ley 87

Establece que el Sistema Dominicano de Seguridad Social (SDSS) desarrollará servicios de estancias infantiles para atender a los hijos de los trabajadores, desde los 45 días de nacidos hasta cumplir los cinco años de edad.

Ley 1.289

Establece la responsabilidad compartida entre la madre y el padre de atender, cuidar, proteger, educar, asistir, dar profundo afecto y preparar para la vida a sus hijos e hijas, constituyendo un derecho y un deber de ambos asumir cabalmente tales responsabilidades, así como disfrutar de las satisfacciones derivadas de una estrecha relación con ellos desde […]

Ley n° 9.220

De acuerdo al artículo 1, se crea la Red Nacional de Cuido y Desarrollo Infantil (Redcudi), con la finalidad de establecer un sistema de cuido y desarrollo infantil de acceso público, universal y de financiamiento solidario que articule las diferentes modalidades de prestación pública y privada de servicios en materia de cuido y desarrollo infantil, […]

Resources

Qualitative research and analyses of the economic impacts of cash transfer programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa

Support for (CT) programmes has been growing in sub-Saharan Africa over the last ten years. Since late 2004, the African Union has provided encouragement to countries to develop their own social policy frameworks, with a Plan of Action supported by governments that commits member states to expanding and empowering social protection programmes. Individual governments are […]

CAC 40: Des Profits Sans Partage — Comment les grandes entreprises française alimentent le spirales d’inégalités

En 2017, 82 % des richesses créées dans le monde ont bénéficié aux 1 % les plus riches, alors que les 50 % les plus pauvres n’en ont reçu que des miettes. La France n’échappe pas à cette tendance : les 10 % les plus riches détiennent plus de la moitié des richesses nationales quand […]

Universal Basic Income proposals in light of ILO standards: Key issues and global costing (ESS ─ Working Paper No. 62)

This paper reviews proposals for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in light of ILO standards. Some UBI proposals have the potential to advance equity and social justice, while others may result in a net welfare loss. The ILO Social Protection Floors Recommendation (No. 202) includes a number of principles which are highly relevant to guide […]

Regional Roadmap for Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific

At the global level in 2015 countries set in motion the most far reaching and ambitious development agenda of our time, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In Asia and the Pacific, countries have already begun translating this ambitious agenda into action and many have already set up the national architecture for coordinating and promoting […]

Innovative approaches for ensuring universal social protection for the future of work

Social protection systems around the world face challenges to provide full and effective coverage for workers in all forms of employment, including those in “new” forms of employment. While some emerging work and employment arrangements may provide greater flexibility for workers and employers, they may lead to significant gaps in social protection coverage, at a […]

Universal Social Protection Country Cases

Countries have used many options to finance universal social protection. Those options include: (i) re-allocating public expenditures (e.g., from financing public subsidies to financing specific programs); (ii) increasing tax revenues, including revenue generated from taxation of natural resources; (iii) using the reductions of debt or debt servicing; (iv) expanding social security coverage and contributory revenues, […]

Inequality in Asia and the Pacific in the era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Inequality in Asia and the Pacific is on the rise. Many countries, including those held up as models of dynamism and prosperity, have experienced a widening of existing gaps, accompanied by environmental degradation. Market-led growth alone is not sufficient to deliver a prosperous, sustainable future for all. This report takes a novel approach by focusing […]

Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context (A/HRC/37/53)

In the present report, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context provides States and other actors with concrete guidance on implementing effective rights-based housing strategies. The report explains the difference between a housing strategy and […]

The Inefficiency of Inequality

Consistently with the emphasis that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has placed on equality since 2010, and in keeping with the purpose of leaving no one behind enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this document examines the mechanisms by which inequality erodes dynamic efficiency in the Latin American […]

The Inefficiency of Inequality (Summary)

Consistently with the emphasis that the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has placed on equality since 2010, and in keeping with the purpose of leaving no one behind enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this document examines the mechanisms by which inequality erodes dynamic efficiency in the Latin American […]

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!