New partnership will expand social protection measures worldwide as part of efforts to combat poverty and rising income inequality. New data show that many developing countries are already achieving universal schemes.
NEW YORK, September 21, 2016—World leaders and heads of the World Bank Group and the International Labour Organization (ILO) are joining forces to achieve social protection for all. The new Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection announced during the UN General Assembly week aims help countries to reach all poor and vulnerable groups with a variety of measures to ensure that nobody lacks access to key forms of support when needed.
Speaking at the meeting, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “Social protection is a means to reduce poverty, achieve greater gender equity, reduce economic inequalities, and to promote good jobs. While many developing countries are already achieving universal schemes designed to ensure that nobody is left behind, only one in five poor people in the lowest-income countries is covered by any form of social protection today. It is profoundly significant that we have come together collectively to help countries close these coverage gaps.”
Universal social protection coverage is well aligned with the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the world by 2030, and is also at the core of the ILO’s mandate, guided by its standards including the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, No. 202, adopted by 185 states in 2012.
The new partnership, supported by these organizations, brings together dedicated development partners such as the African Union, FAO, the European Commission, Helpage, OECD, Save the Children, UNDP-IPC, UNICEF, along with Belgian, Finnish, French and German technical cooperation.
Data released by members of the partnership on Wednesday showed that more than 23 low- and middle-income countries have achieved universal or near universal social protection schemes. Over 100 others are scaling-up social protection and fast-tracking expansion of benefits to new population groups. Universal social protection is most commonly achieved for old-age pensions. These examples demonstrate that universal social protection is feasible for other countries, especially low- and middle-income ones.
Director-General of the UN’s International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, praised the efforts of these countries in all continents, including China, Namibia and Thailand, among others.
“Our shared objective is to increase the number of countries that provide universal social protection, supporting countries to design and implement universal and sustainable social protection systems,” Ryder said.
The ILO estimates that a complete social protection floor package for all vulnerable groups, from children and mothers to older persons, would cost between 1 and 5 percent of GDP in a large number of middle income economies.
The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 1.3 calls for nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all by 2030.
The ILO defines Universal social protection as including: adequate cash transfers for all who need them, especially children; benefits and support for people of working age in case of maternity, disability, work injury or for those without jobs; and pensions for all older persons. This protection can be provided through social insurance, tax-funded social benefits, social assistance services, public works programs and other schemes guaranteeing basic income security.
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