Topical issues

Father with child Philippines

This section highlights some issues of current interests:

Photo credit: “Father with his child, Philippines” by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (CCBY 2.0 via Flick).



Expert Commentaries

Beyond a Production- and Productivity-Centred View on Technological Progress

Technology is an important means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, SDG Targets 17.6,1 17.72 and 17.83 highlight the importance of transferring and diffusing technology and skills from developed to developing countries. The research, development, deployment and widespread distribution of technology—and environmentally sustainable technologies in […]

Fiscal Austerity, Consolidation and Economic Crises: Human rights implications and policy responses

The impact of austerity policies, which are usually implemented in times of economic and financial crises, has been the subject of controversial debates in academic and policy circles both in terms of their legitimacy and effectiveness (Mkandawire and Soludo 1998; Ostry et al. 2016). Particular concerns have been raised regarding the human rights implications of […]

Why Human Rights-Based Social Protection is Needed in Climate Change Responses: A Just Transition

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, Global Warming of 1.5°C, is a powerful reminder of the need for rapid climate action a transition towards low-carbon development to prevent catastrophic climate change. As each new assessment of climate change’s impacts and risks reveals more alarming information than the last, opposition to rigorous climate policies […]

Are Human Rights Relevant to Economic Inequality? A response through the lens of social protection

In recent months, a debate has flared in academic and philanthropy circles around the extent to which the human rights framework can serve to challenge rising economic inequality. Naysayers can be found on different sides of the ideological spectrum. Some, such as Yale historian Samuel Moyn, argue that the human rights framework has nothing to […]

Beyond Addis: Financing social protection in the 2030 Agenda

 In 2015, both the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit resulted in a renewed global commitment to development and poverty eradication. Following the Summit, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This new global development […]

Sustainable Development Goals and the Case for a Developmental Welfare State

Debates around a new development agenda that is to build on, but broaden, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are shifting into higher gear. The Open Working Group (OWG)—a group of more than 30 countries convened by the Rio Conference on Sustainable Development—recently presented its outcome document on sustainable development goals (SDGs) (OWG 2014). The Sustainable […]

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 […]

A Rejoinder to ‘Pro-Poor and Pro-Development Transparency’

Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Africa Regional Director at Development Initiatives

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


Workers in the arts and entertainment sector

Workers in the arts and entertainment sector (AES)[1] often lack effective access to social protection. The insufficient extent of coverage in many countries stems from the deficiency of social protection schemes to address and accommodate the specificities of AES work. These include diverse forms of employment, including self-employment, temporary or open-ended, part-time or full-time employment relationships […]

Domestic workers

Domestic work is an important source of employment, representing 4.5 per cent of employees worldwide. Yet domestic workers are amongst one of the most vulnerable and unprotected categories of workers. They consistently lack decent working conditions including social protection and are disproportionately exposed to violence and harassment. The vulnerabilities experienced within the sector are also compounded […]

New technologies and the gig economy

New technologies are changing how we organize our societies and our lives. Often called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and broadly understood as the emergence and adoption of new and often disruptive technologies that combine elements of the digital, material and biological, this shift both poses challenges and creates opportunities for social protection. Examples of these […]

Inclusion of Vulnerable Groups

As a human right that is intrinsic to all, the international community recognizes the need to design and implement social protection systems according to the principle of social inclusion, underlying the particular need to include persons in the informal economy (Recommendation No. 202, para 3e). Delivery systems should therefore be particularly attuned to the challenges […]

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 […]

Informality and transitions to formality

The number of workers engaged in informal employment has increased in many parts of the world. In many developing countries, workers in the informal economy represent the majority of the labour force. Workers in the informal economy are not covered by labour regulations and lack of access to social security coverage, which make them more […]

Fragile states and post-crisis contexts

Social protection plays a fundamental role in fragile states where the prevalence of civil wars, humanitarian crisis or violence, make people extremely vulnerable and more exposed to economic risks. During the time of turmoil, social protection ensure in these contexts livelihoods and some sort of income security and access to health care. However, wars and […]

Environmental sustainability, climate change and the green economy

The link between climate change, economical scarcity and poverty is straightforward. The world’s poor are especially prone to natural disasters given the fact that in many cases their livelihoods are directly dependent on natural resources. Moving towards a green economy is expected to improve the living conditions of the poor in the long run. By […]

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 […]

Legal Instruments

Argentina, Ley 27203, Acitividad Actoral

The Argentinian law No. 27203 defines the scope of actions of an actor-performer and equates them. Further, it introduces a special method to estimate the number of years of service and contributions to the social security scheme (Article 13). Link to Ley 27203

Germany, Künstlersozialversicherungsgesetz

The mainly mandatory scheme for artists was set up in 1983 and accommodates a broad list of occupations. Under the Artists’ Social Security Act, persons who benefit from art and creation are obliged to contribute as employers. These contributions are subsidized by the Government. The rest is paid by the CCS workers themselves.

India, The Code on Social Security (2020)

The amendment of September 2020 reforms and consolidates India’s social security laws with the goals to extend social security to all employees and workers either in the organised or unorganised or any other sectors and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

India, Atal Pension Yojana

The Atal Pension Yojana, which was set up in 2015, targets informal and self-employed workers who do not contribute to any other pension programmes and do not pay income tax. The key feature for this target is the flexibility of the scheme. Contributions can be made monthly, quarterly or even every six months, making it […]

Republic of Korea, Artist Welfare Act

Korea adopted the Artist Welfare Act in 2011 with the purpose to legally protect the professional status and rights of artists; to promote the creative activities of artists; and to contribute to artistic development by providing artists with welfare support services (Article 1). Link to the Artist Welfare Act (english)

Uruguay, Ley 18.384, Artistas y Oficios Conexos

With Law 18.384 Uruguay adapted the labour and social insurance conditions to artistic jobs. The law defines the scope of actions of performance and extents coverage for all activities which are carried out in dependence, e.g. the law recognises rehearsal time as service if a contract has been signed (Article 2). Link to Ley 18.384

South Africa, Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act 32 of 2003

The Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act granted domestic workers a number of social protection benefits by including domestic workers in the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The Fund provides (a) full or partial unemployment benefits in case of dismissal, retrenchment, illness, or death of the employer; and (b) maternity benefits for pregnant domestic workers before or after their […]

Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189)

The Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and its accompanying Domestic Workers Recommendation, 2011 (No. 201) address closing the gaps in social protection coverage. It calls on Members to ‘… take appropriate measures, in accordance with national laws and regulations and with due regard for the specific characteristics of domestic work, to ensure that domestic […]

Domestic Workers Recommendation, 2011 (No. 201)

The Domestic Workers Recommendation, 2011 (No. 201) accompanies the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and urges ILO member States to take measures to facilitate the payment of social security contributions. It also highlights the potential of bilateral and multilateral agreements to guarantee equal treatment of migrant domestic workers in terms of social security, with […]

Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters  was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus (Århus) at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the “Environment for Europe” process. It entered into force on 30 October […]

Legal Cases

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

In its general report of 2009, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) observed that the global financial crisis was posing a real threat to the financial viability and sustainable development of social security systems and undermining the application of ILO social security standards. The CEACR reminded governments that, under […]

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 […]

Access to courts and the right to work for informal traders in South Africa

Upon an urgent request, the Constitutional Court of South Africa intervened in a lower court affair to prevent the municipal government and Metropolitan Police Force from hindering what was asserted to be lawful activity by informal traders under the auspices of “Operation Clean Sweep”. Until the legality of the program that prevented trading in public […]

Protecting pensions against austerity measures in Latvia

Summary: Latvian pensioners formed a petition and challenged the constitutionality of Latvia’s Law on State Pension and State Allowance Disbursement – commonly known as the ‘Disbursement Law’ – in the period from 2009 to 2012. The overall economy in Latvia was rapidly declining in 2009, and the Latvian Parliament, with advice from the International Monetary […]


Extend social protection to workers in the cultural and creative sector

Lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of theatres and cinemas, and the suspension or cancellation of movie, television and music productions. Many workers in the industry lost their jobs and had no social protection to help them. A new ILO study shows that extending social protection to the creative and […]

Extending social protection to the cultural and creative sector

This policy brief outlines the challenges in extending social protection to the cultural and creative sector (CCS), which were exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. These include, inter alia, legal and de facto exclusion due to the specificities of CCS work such as fluctuating employment status, irregular incomes, intermittent nature of work or geographic mobility. The […]

Social Protection in the Cultural and Creative Sector: Country Practices and Innovations

The ILO Working Paper examines social protection schemes covering workers in the cultural and creative sector (CCS). After an overview of economic and employment trends in the CCS, the working paper reviews policy and legal frameworks in selected countries that have pursued specific solutions to extend social security to workers in the CCS, in order […]

Cross-border employment in the life performance sector: Exploring the social security and employment status of highly mobile workers

The report provides an overview of the characteristics of the live performance sector including its transnational dimension and analyses it against the backdrop of social security law and labour law. It identifies the challenges for the application of both legal regimes and ends by providing an overview of possible solutions to these challenges.

Cultural and creative industries in the face of COVID-19: An economic impact outlook

The UNESCO report identifies which cultural and creative industries have been disrupted the most by the pandemic and attempts to measure the economic impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative sector. Looking ahead, the report explores some of the newer ways in which digital technologies are being used by audiences and cultural professionals.

Culture shock: COVID-19 and the cultural and creative sectors

The OECD Policy Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lays out how the cultural and creative sector is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and identifies factors that make the effects long-lasting. It describes the fragility of the cultural and creative sector and the inadequacy of social protection schemes to offset and to lessen the effects. It […]

Work for a brighter future – Global Commission on the Future of Work

The Global Commission on the Future of Work acknowledges States’ opportunities to shape the transition of the world of work to the better, including the extension of social protection. With regard to working conditions like fluctuating employment status or geographic mobility, which also characterize AES work, it declares the ‘need to evolve to deliver continued […]

Making decent work a reality for domestic workers: Progress and prospects ten years after the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189)

This report assesses the working conditions of domestic workers ten years after the adoption of the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189). It highlights the progress made over a decade, as well as the remaining legal and implementation gaps, and provides guidance on policies that can pave the way to make decent work a reality […]

Extending social security to domestic workers: Lessons from international experience

This policy brief outlines the challenges in extending social protection to domestic workers, which were aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis. These include inter alia legal exclusion in relation to working conditions and arrangements (part time work, multiple employers, informality, etc).  Even where domestic workers might be covered in law, administrative barriers or the lack of […]

Expanding Social Security Coverage to Migrant Domestic Workers

The briefing note explains the ILO strategy to expand social security coverage to migrant domestic workers, including the ILO standards relevant to migrant domestic workers. Despite the long list of ILO social security instruments adopted, the note goes on by describing the main challenges of standards setting for migrant domestic workers, not only in multilateral […]


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 […]

Brussels Conference on Social Protection after 2015

Isabel Ortiz, Director Social Protection of the ILO and UNRISD Senior Research Fellow Magdalena Sepúlveda participated in Post-2015: Social Protection for All, a conference hosted by the Belgium’s Federal Public Service in Brussels on 27 April. The meeting identified ways to ensure that a rights-based approach to social protection is an integral part of the post-2015 agenda. […]

Social Protection and Human Rights