Fifth meeting of the Social Protection, Freedom and Justice for Workers Network

Expand social protection coverage to limit the effects of the pandemic, say trade unions

Trade union leaders and representatives from around the world agreed that extending social protection coverage and strengthening social protection systems is of highest priority. The fallout from the pandemic has underlined the need for governments to make social protection a reality for all.

Press release | 05 July 2022
GENEVA – Trade unions have called for social protection coverage to be extended to all workers, including those in the informal economy, in order to build resilience and mitigate the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants at the Fifth meeting of the “Social Protection, Freedom and Justice for Workers Network,” held virtually on 5 July 2022, stressed the importance of achieving universal social protection in line with the priorities set out in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, the ILO Global Call to Action for a Human-Centred Recovery, the Resolution and conclusions concerning the second recurrent discussion on social protection adopted by the International Labour Conference in June (2021), as well as in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They also discussed trade union advocacy strategies to advance social protection at the international, regional and national levels.

The meeting could not have been more timely, as the world is emerging from one of the worst economic and health crises it ever experienced. Countries are at a crossroads with regard to the trajectory of their social protection systems. If there is a silver lining to this crisis, it is the potent reminder it has provided of the critical importance of investing in social protection; yet many countries also face significant fiscal constraints. Participants underlined that governments should build on the crises response measures they took during the pandemic to strengthen their social protection systems and progressively close protection gaps in order to ensure that everyone is protected against both systemic shocks and ordinary lifecycle risks. Participants moreover emphasised the need to close gender gaps to achieve universal social protection and to ensure that social protection systems address gender-related risk over the life cycle, and promote gender equality, including by adequately crediting care within social security systems and ensuring adequate maternity, paternity and parental leave.

“A key lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the level of resilience and adaptability of workers’ organizations,” said Maria Helena ANDRE, Director of the ILO’s Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV). “Workers’ organizations played a crucial role in the crisis responses. They are not passive bystanders, but agents of change that can develop new pathways for a recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and promote the establishment of adequate and sustainable social protection schemes for all,” she added.

“As new global challenges intensify, we know it is workers and their organizations who will again have to be on the front lines of many policy debates resisting the roll-back of workers’ rights, including their right to social security,” said Shahra RAZAVI, Director of ILO’s Social Protection Department.

Participants at the meeting also stressed the importance of creating the necessary fiscal space in order to extend social protection to all workers, and that countries must strengthen their financial base through progressive taxation, tackling tax evasion, and ensuring that employers pay their fair share of contributions, among others. They also underlined the need for greater global solidarity in financing social protection through increasing the level of official development assistance (ODA) allocated to social protection, as well as better mobilising and coordinating international financing through a Global Social Protection Fund.

“Social protection is affordable for the vast majority of countries, governments simply need to get their priorities straight,” said Sharan BURROW, General Secretary of the ITUC. “It is moreover an investment for inclusive and resilient economies. It is high time for governments to allocate the necessary resources to make social protection a reality for everyone.”

The Social Protection, Freedom and Justice for Workers Network was initiated in 2017 by the ILO in cooperation with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). As one of the strategic partners of the ILO's Global Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All, the network supports workers' organizations in the promotion and defence of the right to social security.

For more information, please contact:

Ursula Kulke
Senior Social Protection Specialist
Tel: +41 22 799 6258