The promise of universal social protection has remained unfulfilled for more than 70 percent of the world’s population, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Thursday.
In the ILO’s World Social Protection Report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice, it said only 27 percent of the world’s population have access to comprehensive social protection and security.
This was despite an agreement among countries in 1948 that social security and health care were universal rights of children, aging people who are about to face unemployment, the injured and the elderly.
“The case for social protection is even more compelling in these times of economic uncertainty, low growth and increased inequality. It is also an issue that the international community should embrace prominently in the post-2015 development agenda,” ILO Director-General Sandra Polaski said in a statement.
Social protection, according to the organization, was a key policy tool that can reduce poverty and inequality through inclusive growth.
This can be done by improving the health and the capacity of the vulnerable sector of society, increase their productivity, support domestic demand and facilitate the structural transformation of national economies.
The importance of global security in economies and societies was highlighted during the global economic crunch of the years 2008 to 2009 and 2010 onwards.
During the first phase of the crisis (2008-2009), at least 49 high- and middle-income governments put in place stimulus packages totalling to $2.4 trillion.
A quarter of that amount was committed to social protection, the ILO said.
“This support acted as an automatic stabilizer that helped the economies to regain balance and protected the unemployed and vulnerable from economic disaster in the countries where it was extended,” the organization added.
However, during the second phase of the crisis (2010 onwards), many governments changed course and “embarked prematurely on fiscal consolidation,” meaning measures that include cuts in pension plans, health care coverages and subsidies for low-income earners.
This was done despite the societies’ urgent need to stabilize consumption because of the economic vulnerability at that time.
“In effect, the cost of fiscal consolidation and adjustment is passed on to populations at a time of low employment and when support is most needed,” Isabel Ortiz, ILO’s social protection department director, said in the same statement.
Ortiz also noted the “public perception” that fiscal consolidation measures were only taken in European countries.
This was not true, she said, adding that around 122 governments have contracted public expenditures in 2014, 82 of which were developing nations.
According to the ILO report, the latest trends in social protection saw a number of high-income countries contracting their social security systems.