Despite the unprecedented worldwide expansion of social protection during the COVID-19 crisis, more than 4 billion people remain entirely unprotected, according to a new International Labor Organization (ILO) report released on Tuesday.
“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,” the report said.
Currently, only 47% of the world's population is “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,” it added.
“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,” ILO chief Guy Ryder said at a news conference.
- Increasing inequality
According to the ILO, there are significant regional inequalities in social protection, with Europe and Central Asia having the highest rates of coverage -- 84% of people are covered by at least one benefit.
The Americas are also above the global average, with 64.3%, while Asia and the Pacific (44%), the Arab States (40%), and Africa (17.4%) have marked coverage gaps, the report said.
Social protection includes access to health care and income security, particularly relating to old age, unemployment, sickness, disability, work injury, maternity, or loss of a main income earner, as well as for families with children.
Ryder said 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,” he said.
“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.”
Globally, the vast majority of children still have no effective social protection coverage – only one in four children (26.4%) receives a social protection benefit, according to the ILO report.
Just 45% of women with newborns receive a cash maternity benefit and only one in three people with severe disabilities (33.5%) worldwide receive a disability benefit, it added.
“Coverage of unemployment benefits is even lower; only 18.6% of unemployed workers worldwide are effectively covered. And while 77.5% 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,” read the report.