About half the world’s population lives without any social protection, even though the pandemic has forced countries to better protect their people, the International Labor Organization said Wednesday. This first report since 2017 by the ILO on the state of social protection in the world shows that 4.1 billion people remain completely without such protection.
This includes access to health care, as well as financial support during retirement and in cases of unemployment, illness, disability, work-related injury, maternity, etc.
In 2020, only 46.9% of the world’s population had at least one social benefit, while 53.1% had no income guarantee from their national social protection system, as AFRICANEWS reports.
The global percentages mask significant disparities between and within regions: while coverage is above the global average in Europe and Central Asia (83.9%) and the Americas (64.3%), it is below in Asia and the Pacific (44.1%), the Arab States (40%), and Africa (17.4%).
Public spending on social protection also varies considerably. On average, countries spend 12.8 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on social protection, while high-income countries spend 16.4 percent of their GDP on social protection and low-income countries only 1.1 percent.
While the pandemic has provided a kind of “X-ray” of global inequality, it has also “revealed the absolutely crucial role that social protection has played in the response” of governments to the crisis, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said at the report’s presentation.
“Countries are at a crossroads. This is a critical time to use the response to the pandemic to build a new generation of protection rights systems,” he warned.
For while the pandemic has pushed countries to invest more in their citizens, Covid-19 – which brought the global economy to a standstill for a time – also risks reducing progress on poverty reduction.
The report says that the financing gap – the additional spending needed to provide at least a minimum level of social protection for all – has increased by about 30% since the start of the health Gross Domestic Product (GDP) caused by the crisis.
To ensure at least basic protection coverage, low-income countries would need to invest an additional $77.9 billion per year, lower-middle-income countries an additional $362.9 billion, and upper-middle-income countries an additional $750.8 billion per year. This is equivalent to 15.9%, 5.1%, and 3.1% of their GDP, respectively, according to the ILO.