More than half of the world’s population has no social protection | Business | Economic and financial news from a German perspective | DW

More than half of the world’s population does not benefit from any form of social protection, according to a report published on Wednesday by the International Labor Organization (ILO). This is the case even after the unprecedented expansion of social protections that has taken place in the wake of the global outbreak of COVID-19.

In 2020, only 47% of the world’s population had effective access to at least one social protection benefit, according to the ILO. The remaining 53% – up to 4.1 billion people – had no protection.

Social protection includes access to health care and income security, for example in the event of unemployment, incapacity for work, old age and for families with children.

“We are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us; our well-being and our destiny are intertwined, regardless of our location, background or work,” wrote the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in the introduction to the report. “If some people cannot rely on income security when they are sick or in quarantine, then public health will be undermined and our collective well-being compromised.”

Marked differences

The “World Social Protection Report 2020-22” assesses recent developments in social protection systems around the world. According to the latest research, social protection coverage still varies considerably across countries and regions.

People in Europe and Central Asia are among the best covered, with 84% of their population having access to at least one benefit. In the Americas, the rate is 64.3%. In Asia and the Pacific and in the Arab States, just under half of people are covered, while in Africa only 17.4% have access to at least one benefit.

Most children around the world have no social protection, the ILO has found. Only one in four children in the world receives a social protection benefit and only 45% of women with a newborn receive a cash maternity benefit.

Only one in three severely disabled people can access disability benefits and only one in five people worldwide are covered if they lose their job.

Three-quarters of people over retirement age have access to some kind of pension, but coverage varies greatly between regions, rural and urban areas and between men and women.

The gap between rich and poor is widening

The report also looked at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social protection: the additional spending that would now be needed to provide minimum social protection for all, known as the financing gap, has increased by around 30% since the start of the pandemic, according to the report.

Low-income countries would need an additional $77.9 billion (€66 billion) per year to guarantee at least basic social protection coverage, equivalent to 16% of gross domestic product (GDP). Lower-middle-income countries would need an additional $362.9 billion per year and upper-middle-income countries would need an additional $750.8 billion per year

On average, countries around the world spend about 13% of their GDP on social protection (excluding health care). But expenses can vary greatly from country to country. High-income countries spend on average 16.4% of their GDP on social protection, while low-income countries only spend 1.1%.

More spending needed

The global health emergency caused by the coronavirus has prompted governments to release significant social protection expenditure. This includes increasing benefits, improving delivery mechanisms and extending coverage to previously unprotected groups.

However, despite international efforts, high-income countries have been more successful in their response than low- and middle-income countries. These coverage and financing gaps between countries supported a recent forecast by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning that richer countries were seeing signs of a healthy recovery while poorer countries’ gains were eroding. reverse, according to the report.

Compounded by uneven vaccine deployment, these social protection gaps also point to a greater likelihood of an uneven global recovery from COVID-19.

Social protection could bring many social and economic benefits to countries at all levels of development, said Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department, in a press release. These include better health and education, more sustainable economic systems, better managed migration and better respect for human rights.

“There is huge pressure for countries to move on to fiscal consolidation, after massive public spending on their crisis response measures,” Razavi said. “But it would be very harmful to reduce social protection – investments are needed here and now.”

Joel C. Hicks