Social Protection: A Key to a Fair Society

Organization(s): ITUC
Year: 2014
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Social protection is essential for social justice and inclusion, strong democracies, equitable growth and resilience during crises.

The components of social protection programmes have diverse shapes and historic and cultural backgrounds. They are influenced by demographic, geographic, and administrative requirements and need to be context and country specific.

Governments around the world have committed to providing social protection. Since the end of the Second World War the understanding of the need for such protection and the duty to extend it as much as possible has been reiterated. However, universal coverage has not been realised and real coverage has declined in many areas; eligibility criteria have been tightened or not adjusted to changes in society and the labour market; health care services have been privatized; the retirement age increased; public pension schemes have been replaced by private or mixed systems, and disability criteria have been tightened, all while maternity benefits and family allowance have been reduced.

Outside the legal context, social security is even less of a reality. Those in the informal sector, the unemployed, and people living in rural areas or suffering severe diseases, still fall largely outside any protection. This discrepancy is not acceptable for the labour movement and the ITUC is committed to advocating for strong social protection.

Almost every country has some kind of social protection. However, few countries provide social protection programmes for each of the components identified by Convention 102. The comprehensiveness of social security is particularly limited in Africa, the Middle East, and South-Asia. The ILO estimates that only 28 per cent of the world’s population and a mere 20 per cent of the working-age population enjoys a comprehensive level of social protection (see Figure 1).1

This report will focus on the components of social protection mentioned by Convention 102 for which aggregate data exist. These include: health care, unemployment benefit, old age benefits and maternity benefits.

Related Principles

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 […]

Social Protection and Human Rights