More than 4 billion people in the world without social protection – ILO

About half of the world’s population lives without any social protection, even as the pandemic has forced countries to better protect their people, the International Labor Organization said on Wednesday.

This first report since 2017 by the ILO on the state of social protection in the world shows that 4.1 billion people remain totally deprived of this protection.

Social protection includes access to health care, as well as financial support during retirement and in the event of unemployment, illness, disability, accident at work, maternity, etc.

In 2020, only 46.9% of the world’s population received at least one social protection benefit, while 53.1% had no income guarantee from their national social protection system.

The global percentages mask important disparities between and within regions: while coverage is above the global average in Europe and Central Asia (83.9%) and the Americas (64.3%), it is lower in Asia and the Pacific (44.1%), in the Arab countries United States (40%) and Africa (17.4%).

Public expenditure on social protection also varies considerably. On average, countries spend 12.8% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on social protection, while high-income countries spend 16.4% of their GDP on social protection and low-income countries only 1 .1%.

“Glow of Optimism”

While the pandemic has provided a kind of “x-ray” of global inequalities, it has also “revealed the absolutely crucial role that social protection has played in the response” of governments to the crisis, says ILO Director-General , Guy Ryder, during the presentation of the report.

Although to varying degrees, many countries have indeed adopted unprecedented social protection measures to deal with the health crisis. “There are glimmers of optimism amid the devastation caused by the pandemic,” enthused Ryder in the report.

“Countries are at a crossroads. This is a critical time to use the pandemic response to build a new generation of social protection rights systems,” he warned.

The ILO calls on leaders to continue the efforts made during the pandemic, despite the enormous pressure exerted on countries to adopt fiscal consolidation, and asks that the social protection measures put in place be maintained until recovery is well under way.

Because while the pandemic has pushed countries to invest in social protection, Covid-19 – which paralyzed the global economy for a time – also risks reducing progress in poverty reduction.

The report says the financing gap – the extra spending needed to ensure at least a minimum level of social protection for all – has increased by around 30% since the onset of the crisis-induced health gross domestic product (GDP) .

To ensure at least basic social protection, low-income countries would need to invest an additional $77.9 billion per year, lower-middle-income countries an additional $362.9 billion, and upper-middle-income countries an additional 750.8 billions of additional dollars per year. This equates to 15.9%, 5.1% and 3.1% of their GDP, respectively, according to the ILO.

Joel C. Hicks