World Social Protection Report 2017-2019

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The World Social Protection Report 2017-2019, entitled Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, was released recently by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO).

Universal social protection is essential for realizing the human right to social security for all, advancing social justice and promoting inclusive growth, and accelerating progress towards achieving the globally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This ILO flagship report provides a global overview on recent trends in social protection systems, including social protection floors. Based on new data, it offers a broad range of global, regional and country data on social protection coverage, benefits and public expenditures on social protection.

According to this report, more than half of the global population – some four billion people – have no social security protection.

Report highlights how this protection gap is an obstacle to reaching globally-agreed targets on promoting growth and development, and protecting the planet.

Although many countries had improved social protection for their citizens in recent decades, much more investment and political is needed to extend coverage.

The lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to ill-health, poverty, inequality and social exclusion throughout their lifecycle. Denying this human right to four billion people worldwide is a significant obstacle to economic and social development.

Only 45 per cent of the global population have access to at least one social benefit, and only 29 per cent have comprehensive protection.

Despite a slight improvement in welfare coverage since 2015 around the world, much more investment by governments will be needed to extend protection to all; not least the 1.3 billion children who have no cover whatsoever.

ILO says this is particularly true in rural areas, where 56 per cent of people lack health coverage, compared to 22 per cent in towns and cities.

Some countries are already tackling the problem by offering simplified tax returns to workers previously in the informal sector.

Once on the government’s books, contributions from these workers help pay for maternity leave, job-seekers’ allowance, disabilities benefit and care for senior citizens. The evolving world of work and technology has also provided new opportunities to extend social protection.

ILO warned that progress in welfare protection risks being pushed back – the result of fiscal savings put in place after the global economic crisis. This is likely to be the case in Europe, where pensioners in 19 countries face lower benefits by 2060.

The report follows a life-cycle approach, starting with social protection for children, followed by schemes for women and men in working age, including protection in case of maternity, unemployment, employment injury and disability, and those for older persons, including pensions. It also assesses progress towards universal coverage in health. It calls for greater attention towards the extension of coverage, adequate financing and strengthening national social protection systems, with a particular focus on achieving the SDGs.

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