By Joan Nwagwu
The International Labour Organisation(ILO) says more than four billion people around the world lack social protection.
The ILO Director-General, Mr Guy Ryder, said this in the new report released by the organisation and made available to newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.
The report is titled,“World Social Protection Report 2020-22: Social protection at the crossroads- in pursuit of a better future released by the organisation’’
He said that in spite of the unprecedented worldwide expansion of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis, more than four billion people around the world remained entirely unprotected.
Ryder said the report found that the pandemic response was uneven and insufficient.
He said this had deepened the gap between countries with high and low income levels and failing to afford the much-needed social protection that all human beings deserve.
He noted that social protection includes access to health care and income security, particularly in relation to old age.
The ILO Director-General said that other social protection includes access to unemployment, sickness, disability, work injury, maternity or loss of a main income earner, as well as for families with children.
“We must recognise that effective and comprehensive social protection is not just essential for social justice and decent work but for creating a sustainable and resilient future too.
“Countries are at a crossroads. This is a pivotal moment to harness the pandemic response to build a new generation of rights-based social protection systems.
“These can cushion people from future crises and give workers and businesses the security to tackle the multiple transitions ahead with confidence and with hope.
“We must recognise that effective and comprehensive social protection is not just essential for social justice and decent work but for creating a sustainable and resilient future too, ’’he said.
According to the report, it gives a global overview of recent developments in social protection systems.
It said this includes social protection floors, and covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report identified protection gaps and sets out key policy recommendations, including in relation to the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It noted that currently, only 47 per cent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit.
It also noted that 4.1 billion people (53 per cent) obtained no income security at all from their national social protection system.
The report said that there wee significant regional inequalities in social protection.
It noted that Europe and Central Asia had the highest rates of coverage, with 84 per cent of people being covered by at least one benefit.
It said the Americas were also above the global average, with 64.3 per cent. Asia and the Pacific (44 per cent), the Arab States (40 per cent) and Africa (17.4 per cent) have marked coverage gaps.
The report noted that worldwide, the vast majority of children still had no effective social protection coverage, only one in four children (26.4 per cent) receives a social protection benefit.
It also said only 45 per cent of women with newborns worldwide receive a cash maternity benefit.
“Only one in three persons with severe disabilities (33.5 per cent) worldwide receive a disability benefit.
“Coverage of unemployment benefits is even lower; only 18.6 per cent of unemployed workers worldwide are effectively covered.
“And while 77.5 per cent of people above retirement age receive some form of old-age pension, major disparities remain across regions, between rural and urban areas, and between women and men.
“Government spending on social protection also varies significantly.
“On average, countries spend 12.8 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on social protection (excluding health),’’it said.
The report, however noted that high-income countries spend 16.4 per cent and low-income countries only 1.1 per cent of their GDP on social protection.
It said that the financing gap (the additional spending required to ensure at least minimum social protection for all) had increased by approximately 30 per cent since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
The report said that to guarantee at least basic social protection coverage, low-income countries would need to invest an additional 77.9 billion dollars per year.
It said while the lower-middle-income countries would need an additional 362.9 billion dollars per year and upper-middle-income countries a further 750.8 billion dollars per year.
It added that this is equivalent to 15.9, 5.1 and 3.1 per cent of their GDP, respectively.
Also, Shahra Razavi, ILO Social Protection Department, said that there was an enormous push for countries to move to fiscal consolidation, after the massive public expenditure of their crisis response measures.
“But it would be seriously damaging to cut back on social protection; investment is required here and now.
“Social protection is an important tool that can create wide-ranging social and economic benefits for countries at all levels of development.
“It can underpin better health and education, greater equality, more sustainable economic systems, better managed migration and the observance of core rights,” she said.
Razavi said that building the systems that would deliver these positive outcomes would require a mix of financing sources and greater international solidarity, particularly with support for poorer countries.
“But the benefits of success will reach beyond national borders to benefit us all,” she said. (NAN)