Unemployment protection

go back to syria

Unemployment protection schemes provide income support over a determined period of time to unemployed people who are capable of working. Their objective is to provide at least partial income replacement for the loss of earnings resulting from temporary unemployment, enabling the beneficiary to maintain a certain standard of living during the transition period until he or she obtains suitable employment and, increasingly, also to provide support in finding employment through a range of promotional measures and services, including support, counselling and advice in looking for employment, and facilities for enhancing, updating and developing skills.

In “normal” times, such schemes aim to meet the needs of individuals whose job losses reflect basic levels of turnover in the labour market, and thus to play a key role in supporting job mobility and facilitating structural change in the economy. In addition to guaranteeing income security for unemployed workers, unemployment protection schemes can also help protect them from slipping into informality, and support their search for new jobs in which they can apply existing or new skills in a productive way.

Whether temporary unemployment is the result of covariant shocks, as in the event of the global crisis, or of the constant structural change undergone by economies and labour markets, unemployment benefits represent an effective tool to guarantee income security to individuals, smooth economic changes and stabilize aggregate consumption.

Most unemployment benefit programmes are designed to cover workers in formal employment who lose their jobs and find themselves temporarily unable to obtain suitable new employment. Most such programmes do not protect unemployed people who have had no formal employment in the recent past, the long-term unemployed, the underemployed or the working poor.

In countries with high levels of informality, wider non-contributory social assistance programmes combining employment and social protection policies have been developed to provide some income security for unemployed and underemployed workers. These include employment guarantee schemes and other public employment programmes, as well as programmes that combine cash transfers with support for skills development and creation of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.


Photo credit: “All I want to do is go back to Syria” by DFID – UK Department for International Development (CCBY 2.0 via Flickr).



Legal Instruments

Employment Promotion and Protection Against Unemployment Convention, 1988 (No. 168)

The main aim of Convention No. 168 is twofold: the protection of unemployed persons through the provision of benefits in the form of periodical payments and through the promotion of employment. Convention No. 168 therefore recognises the value of linking social security to broader social and economic policies directed at one priority goal: the promotion […]

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 […]


COVID-19 Recovering Rights: Topic Seven | Income Support to Protect Rights

Main Takeaways Urgent measures are necessary to provide sufficient income to millions of people who cannot work due to pandemicrelated restrictions, so that they can still meet their basic needs. Many of these workers lack social and labor protections.  Basic income schemes vary in type, design and implementation. Those that are universal, durable and unconditional […]

Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development: General Survey concerning the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202)

The ILO’s General Survey 2019 , compiled by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR). The Survey (published under the title Universal social protection for human dignity, social justice and sustainable development) focuses on the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202), which calls for basic income security and essential healthcare […]

Unemployment protection: A good practices guide and training package — Experiences from ASEAN

This unemployment protection guide covers knowledge, expertise and instruments that were developed through technical assistance to ASEAN countries provided by the ILO/Japan Project, Promoting and Building Social Protection in Asia. It can be used also as a toolkit by policy-makers to conduct feasibility studies for the design of unemployment benefits schemes for both informal and […]

Social security system of Ukraine in 2014–15 and beyond: towards effective social protection floors

This report presents a review of the recent changes made to the Ukrainian social security system between 2014 and 2015 and of the planned future reforms in the light of international social security standards. The ILO assessment aims to assist the Ukrainian Government and the social partners in effectively formulating and implementing measures to sustain […]

Promoting Youth Employment: policies and programmes

This paper deals primarily with programmes for expansion of youth employment opportunities, paying special attention to generation of self-employment through youth enterprise. Since these programmes cannot be considered in isolation of the nature of youth unemployment and the overall policies for employment creation, the initial sections of the paper focus on the emergence, dimensions and […]

World Employment Social Outlook (2016)

This report includes a forecast of global unemployment levels, looking at the situation in developed, emerging and developing economies, with detailed charts and numbers. The report also focusses on the share of vulnerable employment as well as on the scale of the informal economy. It provides policy guidance to boost decent work opportunities around the […]

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 […]

World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice

Social protection policies play a critical role in realizing the human right to social security for all, reducing poverty and inequality, and promoting inclusive growth – by boosting human capital and productivity, and by supporting domestic demand and structural transformation of national economies. This ILO flagship report provides a global overview of the organization of […]

Social Protection and Human Rights