More than 70 percent of the world population is not adequately covered by social protection, says a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
According to the “World Social Protection Report 2014/2015: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice,” only 27 percent of the global population enjoys access to comprehensive social security.
The report, which was made available to Ghana News Agency by the ILO said 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 the society, increasing their productivity, supporting domestic demand and facilitating the structural transformation of national economies.
“The global community agreed in 1948 that social security and health care for children, working age people who face unemployment or injury and older persons are a universal human right,” said ILO Deputy Director-General Sandra Polaski. “And yet in 2014 the promise of universal social protection remains unfilled for the large majority of the world’s population.”
“The case for social protection is even more compelling in these times of economic uncertainty, low growth and increased inequality. It is also an issue that the international community should embrace prominently in the post-2015 development agenda.”
The report said the multifaceted function that social protection plays in economies and societies became particularly evident during the recent global financial and economic crisis.
It said in the first phase of the crisis (2008-09), at least 48 high and middle-income countries put in place stimulus packages totalling $ 2.4 trillion that devoted roughly a quarter to social protection measures.
The report observed that this support acted as an automatic stabilizer that helped the economies to regain balance and protected the unemployed and vulnerable from economic disaster in the countries where it was extended.
It said in the second phase of the crisis however, from 2010 onwards, many governments reversed course and embarked prematurely on fiscal consolidation, despite the urgent need to continue supporting vulnerable populations and stabilising consumption.
“Contrary to public perception, fiscal consolidation measures are not limited to Europe,” said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department.
“In fact, as many as 122 governments are contracting public expenditures in 2014, of which 82 are developing countries.”
According to the report, the latest trends show that a number of high-income countries are contracting their social security systems.
It said 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.
The report looks at different social protection trends following a life-cycle approach.
It said 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.
It noted that regarding old-age pensions, almost half (49 per cent) of all people over pensionable age do not receive a pension, adding that for many of those who do have one, pension levels may leave them far below poverty lines.
The report also shows that about 39 per cent of the world population lacks any affiliation to a health system or scheme.
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.
The report said: “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.”