Despite the unprecedented worldwide expansion of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis, more than 4 billion people around the world remain entirely unprotected, said a report released by the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Wednesday.
The report found that the pandemic response was uneven and insufficient, deepening the gap between countries with high and low income levels and failing to afford the much-needed social protection that all human beings deserve.
“We must recognize 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,” said Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, cited in the report.
“Countries are at a crossroads,” he said. “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.”
Currently, only 47% of the global population are effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit, while 4.1 billion people (53%) obtain no income security at all from their national social protection system, said the report.
Government spending on social protection varies significantly. On average, countries spend 12.8% of their gross domestic product (GDP) on social protection (excluding health). However, high-income countries spend 16.4% and low-income countries only 1.1% of their GDP on social protection.
“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…” said Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department of the ILO.
“Building the systems that can deliver these positive outcomes will 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,” Razavi added.