Social security for all should be a priority – ILO official

Isabel Ortiz, the Director of Social protection Department at ILO. Courtesy.

Only 20 per cent of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage while more than half lacks any kind of social security protection, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The lack of social security protection is more rampant in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where ILO says that only an estimated 5 to 10 per cent of the working population has access to safety nets. 

According to ILO, social security is the protection that a society provides to individuals and households to ensure access to healthcare and to guarantee income security, particularly during old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, work injury, maternity leave or in case of loss of a breadwinner.

Those without protection coverage tend to be part of the informal economy – they are generally not protected in old age by social security and cannot afford to pay their healthcare bill.

The New Times’Emmanuel Ntirenganya talked to Isabel Ortiz, the Director of Social protection Department at ILO, on the widespread shortfall of supply of social security products. 

Below are the excerpts:

Why is social security an important topic that deserves public attention?

Universal social protection is extremely important for people. The reality is that people across the lifecycle, from childhood, need support. When you are a child, mother, person with disability and elderly, you need support because you are particularly weak.

Social protection also guarantees access to healthcare and income support.

How can developing countries achieve universal social security?

Universal means for all. And how countries will achieve this is by thinking of a system that has different components—generally social insurance component for those that are better-off and have jobs, employment and contracts so that they can pay social insurance. And then develop social security programmes for those who are not employed.

The first thing is to prioritise universal healthcare and social protection. Everybody needs healthcare and every old person deserves access to pension.

For implementation, the key issue is financing.

Integrating the economically vulnerable people, or those working in informal sector into social security has been challenging. What can be done to address this problem?

What you need to have is social insurance for people in the formal sector. For people in the informal sector, there’s need for innovative schemes to bring them into the formal sector.

For instance, we learnt that in Tanzania, there is a social insurance scheme for farmers. It is a one-time payment that happens during the harvest period when farmers have income

That is good because if you require them to do many payments, it would be very difficult. And, ultimately, for those who are very, very poor you cannot ask them for any payment because they cannot [be able to] contribute.

These ones, the Government will have to actually subsidise through the general budget.

What other challenges need to be addressed in terms of healthcare provision?

It’s very important to provide healthcare for everybody. The second issue is the quality of health. More effort is needed to improve the quality of healthcare in rural areas.