More than 70 per cent of the world population lacks proper social protection

03/06/2014 14:30
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, June 3, 2014, Asia-Plus -- A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building Economic Recovery, Inclusive Development and Social Justice, presents the latest social security trends and finds that most people are without adequate social protection at a time when it is most needed.

The report says more than 70 percent of the world population is not adequately covered by social protection; only 27 per cent of the global population enjoys access to comprehensive social security.

Social protection is a key policy tool to reduce poverty and inequality while stimulating inclusive growth by boosting the health and capacity of vulnerable segments of society, increasing their productivity, supporting domestic demand and facilitating the structural transformation of national economies.

The multifaceted function that social protection plays in economies and societies became particularly evident during the recent global financial and economic crisis.  In the first phase of the crisis (2008-09), at least 48 high and middle-income countries put in place stimulus packages totaling US$ 2.4 trillion that devoted roughly a quarter to social protection measures.

But in the second phase of the crisis, from 2010 onwards, many governments reversed course and embarked prematurely on fiscal consolidation, despite the urgent need to continue supporting vulnerable populations and stabilizing consumption.

The latest trends reportedly show that a number of high-income countries are contracting their social security systems.  In the European Union, cuts in social protection have already contributed to increases in poverty which now affects 123 million people or 24 percent of the population, many of whom are children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities.

On the other hand, many middle-income countries are expanding their social protection systems, supporting household incomes and thereby boosting demand-led growth and inclusive development.  
Some lower-income countries have also extended social protection, yet often through temporary safety nets with very low benefit levels.  Many of these countries are now undertaking efforts to build social protection floors as part of more comprehensive social protection systems.

The report looks at different social protection trends following a life-cycle approach.

For example, it shows that at the global level, governments allocate only 0.4 per cent of GDP to child and family benefits, with expenditures ranging from 2.2 per cent in Western Europe to 0.2 per cent in Africa and in Asia/Pacific.  These investments should be scaled up, considering that about 18,000 children die every day and that many of these deaths could be averted through adequate social protection.

Expenditures for social protection for people during working age (for example, in the event of unemployment, maternity, disability or work injury) vary widely across regions, ranging from 0.5 per cent in Africa to 5.9 per cent in Western Europe.  Worldwide, only 12 per cent of unemployed workers receive unemployment benefits, ranging from 64 per cent in Western Europe to less than 3 per cent in the Middle East and in Africa.

Regarding old-age pensions, almost half (49 per cent) of all people over pensionable age do not receive a pension. And for many of those who do have one, pension levels may leave them far below poverty lines.  Future pensioners will receive lower pensions in at least 14 European countries.

The report also shows that about 39 per cent of the world population lacks any affiliation to a health system or scheme.  The number reaches more than 90 per cent in low-income countries.  The ILO estimates that there is a global shortfall of 10.3 million health workers required to ensure quality health services for all in need. Despite these challenges, some countries – including Thailand and South Africa – have achieved universal health coverage in just a few years, showing that it can be done. 

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