ITUC Meeting of Experts Confirms Social Protection for All Is Affordable

The majority of the world’s population is not covered under any type of social protection scheme, and less than 30 per cent enjoy comprehensive coverage. Women, workers in the informal economy and workers in non-standard forms of employment are disproportionately under-protected.

This is in spite of the fact that social protection floors are essential tools in eliminating poverty, as well as driving factors in boosting employment, fostering skills development, formalising work, reducing inequality and achieving inclusive economic growth.

Trade unions and social protection experts from around the world have come together in Brussels this week to identify how financing social protection can and should be strengthened. Representatives from over 30 trade unions, along with academics, civil society organisations, government officials and international organisations discussed the range of options that governments have at their disposal to finance the extension of social protection to all people. They agreed that social protection floors for all are financially feasible in all countries and that governments need to get their priorities right to fund them.

Unions and experts emphasised how extensions to social protection are not necessarily very expensive, and can be even self-financing in certain cases. In the short term, 71 countries could achieve social protection floors for all by investing an extra 2% of GDP or less. Numerous ways that governments can increase their budgets for social protection were also presented. Tackling tax evasion could also significantly make up for budget shortfalls. Just 0.23% of global GDP would suffice to provide social protection floors for the entire world population, while currently some 10% of the world’s GDP is held in tax havens.

Trade unions are calling for the extension of social protection and the implementation of international commitments, including ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection Floors as well as United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1.3.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, stressed, ‘’There is no shortage of money to achieve universal social protection – only a shortage of political will. We are also calling for greater support from the international community, through strengthened development assistance for social protection as well as an end to austerity demands from international financial institutions. Social protection is a bedrock for decent standards of living, and also provides an engine for sustainable economic growth.”