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2015: Time to make social protection for all a reality

03 Feb 2015

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors is a network of NGOs and trade unions from all parts of the world committed to achieving social protection for everyone. HelpAge International was one of the founding members of the Coalition in 2012, when over 60 NGOs – ranging from human rights organisations to labour movements - submitted a joint statement to the 101st International Labour Conference (ILC) calling for a strong Recommendation on Social Protection Floors.

Recommendation 202 was endorsed by over 185 countries at the ILC on 14 June 2012. Since 2012 the Coalition has grown to more than 80 members and has continued to influence debate on Social Protection Floors in national, regional and international processes including through the human rights system. The importance of building social protection floors has been recognised by the UN, the G20 and in the strategic frameworks of other major organisations including the FAO, OECD, UNICEF, WHO, World Bank and the European Commission.

It now features prominently in the new Sustainable Development Goals. Today, the Coalition launches its new at the Civil Society Forum at UN Headquarters, New York, before the opening of the 53rd Session of the Commission for Social Development.

What is a social protection floor?

A social protection floor describes a system of social security guarantees that provide access to health care and basic income security throughout the life course, including in older age. Establishing a floor within a social security system provides basic protection to everyone, upon which progressively higher levels of social security can be built.

There is no “one size fits all” approach to a social protection floor - it must be nationally defined but based on a set of principles which respect the rights and dignity of people covered by the guarantees.

Why is a social protection floor important?

Social protection systems are essential for reducing poverty and inequality as part of wider policies designed to tackle economic and social injustice. In older age, universal or near-universal non-contributory social pensions can provide income security as part of a social protection floor.

The role that social pensions play in providing a regular and predictable income in older age is critical. Although adult children were historically often the main source of material support in older age, smaller family sizes, migration and poverty have reduced family support. At the same time, long-term saving for older age is incredibly difficult for informal workers where the majority of work is characterised by irregular, unpredictable and low earnings.

Progress – but gaps remain

The coverage of social protection has dramatically increased in the last decade, but coverage is unequal across the globe. In the case of income security in older age, only 56% of people over the statutory retirement age in Latin America and the Caribbean receive a pension, for Asia and the Pacific it is 47%, and in Africa it is as low as 21%. Adequacy also remains a problem. Social pensions play an important role in providing a regular and predictable minimum income, but are often not sufficient to meet all income needs in older age.

The Global Coalition for Social Protection Floors aims to keep up pressure on international and national policymakers to ensure that social protection stays on the agenda. It not only pushes for policy changes but also monitors visible achievements in implementation on the ground. To learn more about the aims and activities of the Coalition, and to become a Member, visit www.socialprotectionfloorscoalition.org.

Membership is open to NGOs that are representatives of their constituencies and that agree to the Coalition’s principles and aims.

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Author profile


Alice Livingstone
Country: United Kingdom
Job title: Programmes Officer

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.