Poverty, inequality and standards of living


The lack of social protection coverage, being associated with economic insecurity, poverty, high levels of inequality and low investments in human capital, is seen as a major obstacle to economic and social development. Social protection plays a critical role in reducing poverty and inequality, improving the standards of living and promoting social cohesion. Due to its fundamental role, social protection has become a key element of national strategies to promote human development, political stability and inclusive growth.


Photo credit: “Potatoe bags” by Brett Davies (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).

Expert Commentaries

Judicial Protection of the Right to Social Security

The right to social security is enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) as well as other international treaties, and has been upheld by numerous judicial bodies at the national, regional and international levels, both explicitly or implicitly through other rights including civil and political ones, and/or other constitutional and […]

A Rights-Based Approach to Social Protection: The Case of Tunisia

Tunisia today is at an important stage in its thinking about a new development model that combines optimal allocation of resources and social equity, welfare being an essential factor in the success of the democratic transition and at the core of the 2011 popular uprising. However, structural reform cannot be achieved in the absence of […]

Realizing Rights in Practice: ‘Minimum’ Level of Social Security in Relation to an ‘Adequate’ Standard of Living

Bob Deacon, Emeritus Professor at the International Social Policy, University of Sheffield

Legal Instruments

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

Austerity measures that contravene Conventions by reducing social protection and increasing poverty in Greece

Recalling previous recommendations, the Committee observed that the austerity measures in conjunction with the continuous contractions of the economy, employment and public finances posed a threat to the viability of the Greek national social security system, resulting in the impoverishment of the population, thus undermining the application of all accepted parts of Social Security (Minimum […]


India Inequality Report 2018: Widening Gaps

In spite of the rising global interest in inequality, emerging economies have not been studied enough, due to the lack of sufficient data and differences in economic and social structures. It is important to measure the extent of inequality to understand the growth trajectories of these economies and the income distribution between various population groups. […]

World Inequality Report 2018

The World Inequality Report 2018 relies on a cutting-edge methodology to measure income and wealth inequality in a systematic and transparent manner. By developing this report, the World Inequality Lab seeks to fill a democratic gap and to equip various actors of society with the necessary facts to engage in informed public debates on inequality. Link to […]

The Inclusive Development Index 2018

The Inclusive Development Index (IDI) is an annual assessment of 103 countries’ economic performance that measures how countries perform on eleven dimensions of economic progress in addition to GDP. It has 3 pillars; growth and development; inclusion and; intergenerational equity – sustainable stewardship of natural and financial resources. The IDI is a project of the […]

The Impact of Minimum Wage Increases on the South African Economy in the Global Policy Model

This paper uses the United Nations Global Policy Model (GPM) to assess how increasing minimum wages might impact the South African economy by increasing the share of income going to workers (the “labour share”) – in contrast to the share that accrues to capital through profits and property income. We simulate the implementation of a […]

Minimum Wage Policies and Their Effects in Developing Countries: a comparative perspective

India was one of the first developing countries to introduce the Minimum Wages Act in 1948 and it is still considered to be an important piece of labour legislation. However, the Act is only applicable to a small proportion of workers. This has resulted in intense academic and policy debate over the past decades about […]

Social Panorama of Latin America 2017

In this edition of Social Panorama of Latin America, ECLAC has addressed the questions posed by the countries of the region in three major areas: income inequality between individuals and households and how these relate to labour market dynamics; the evolution of poverty and its determinants; and the effects of pension systems on equality. The […]

Shame, Poverty and Social Protection

Despite long-standing conceptual considerations of shame in understanding poverty and debates about its moral, social and emotional qualities, the role of shame in poverty reduction policies remains largely unexplored. Notions of shame or mechanisms leading to shame – such as stigma or lack of dignity or respect – feature in many studies and policy evaluations, […]

From Disparity to Dignity: tackling economic inequality through the Sustainable Development Goals

The briefing explores a critical set of redistributive policies – in the areas of social protection, health, education and taxation – that are key to tackling economic inequality from a human rights perspective. It also explains the equally crucial ‘pre-distributive’ policies – actions governments should take to ensure the rules of the marketplace are equitable […]

Great Expectations: Is the IMF turning words into action on inequality?

In recent years, the International Monetary Fund has become a global leader in highlighting the inequality crisis; consistently identifying it as a major threat to human progress and prosperity. This is a significant shift from its previously held position that rising inequality was a necessary trade-off for achieving greater economic growth. What is the IMF […]

The Political Economy of Income Distribution: industry level evidence from 14 OECD countries

This article presents an econometric estimation of the determinants of the wage share, using sectoral data for 14 OECD countries for the period 1970- 2014. We present estimations for the wage share of high- and low-skilled workers and within manufacturing and service industries. We augment sectoral data with input-output tables and union density data to […]


Human Rights Council Side Event on 19 June

On 19 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Movement ATD Fourth World, with support of the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Chile, France and Romania will hold a side event at the Human Rights Council. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston will appear on […]

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