Globalisation and trends like changing employment patterns are leading to greater risk, insecurity and vulnerability. To address these changes, the scope of social protection needs to be expanded. This paper by the International Labour Organisation (ILO’s) presents a broader concept of social protection within the framework of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda.
Social protection has evolved from providing public assistance towards strategies for managing risks. The ILO defines social protection as public measures that protect against the loss of income from work and provide health care and benefits for families with children. Social protection is central to the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda aimed at enabling people to obtain decent work to live in dignity. However, social protection now needs to respond to the increasing risks resulting from globalisation. This includes the changes in people’s life cycle patterns from a linear path of birth, work and retirement to a new life of cycles. People enter new life cycles when the risks and uncertainties that define their vulnerability changes, for instance, due to illness.
Social protection needs to be broadened to cover three dimensions. Besides providing access to essential goods and services and protecting against risk, it should also promote individual and social potentials and opportunities. Investment in social protection in all dimensions should occur throughout the different phases of life (before, during and after working years).
- Individuals go through several life cycles in each phase of life. Social protection can ensure vulnerability in one cycle is not transmitted to the next.
- Social and personal potential should be enhanced before and during working age. After working age, the focus should be on active ageing, for example, through health care.
- Crosscutting issues that are relevant through all life phases include promoting social dialogue and enhancing gender equality.
- Guiding principles for social protection schemes during all phases of life include prohibiting discrimination and ensuring participation and benefits for all. Schemes should also be democratically managed, with the State responsible for overall management.
- Social protection should complement policies in other fields like economic development.
Within this framework, there are several guidelines for implementing a broader concept of social protection. First, a comprehensive legal and policy framework of social protection rights is necessary. This provides a legal basis for entitlements and ensures that appropriate mechanisms are established to achieve these. Other guidelines are:
- There should be adequate monitoring, inspection and enforcement of schemes.
- Adequate resources need to be made available on a sustained basis.
- Integration of social protection schemes should be actively promoted. Responsibilities and resources among the different sectors and levels of government should be clearly established to avoid fragmentation, duplication or even multiplication of schemes.
- Dissemination and exchange of information should be encouraged. This is essential for the proper monitoring and implementation of social protection objectives. In particular, specific campaigns should be designed for vulnerable and marginalised groups.
- The psychological and socio-cultural obstacles that prevent some men and women from realising their social protection rights should be recognised and addressed in the delivery of benefits and services.
- Vulnerable groups and regions need to be targeted for specific attention.