Social protection

Access to adequate social protection is recognized by International labour standards and the UN as a basic right . It is also widely considered to be instrumental in promoting human welfare and social consensus on a broad scale, and to be conducive to and indispensable for fair growth, social stability and economic performance, contributing to competitiveness

Today, only 20 per cent of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage, and more than half lack any coverage at all. They face dangers in the workplace and poor or non-existent pension and health insurance coverage. The situation reflects levels of economic development, with fewer than 10 per cent of workers in least-developed countries covered by social security. In middle-income countries, coverage ranges from 20 to 60 per cent, while in most industrial nations, it is close to 100 per cent.

Social Protection is one of the four strategic objectives of the Decent Work agenda that define the core work of the ILO. Since its creation in 1919, ILO has actively promoted policies and provided its Member States with tools and assistance aimed at improving and expanding the coverage of social protection to all groups in society and to improving working conditions and safety at work.

The ILO has set out three main objectives reflecting the three major dimensions of social protection:
  1. Extending the coverage and effectiveness of social security schemes
  2. Promoting labour protection , which comprises decent conditions of work, including wages, working time and occupational safety and health, essential components of decent work
  3. Working through dedicated programmes and activities to protect such vulnerable groups as migrant workers and their families; and workers in the informal economy. Moreover, the world of work's full potential will be used to respond to the AIDS pandemic, focusing on enhancing tripartite constituents' capacity

The Social Protection Floor Initiative

Recognizing the importance of ensuring social protection for all, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (UNCEB) adopted, in April 2009, the Social Protection Floor Initiative, as one of the nine UN joint initiatives to cope with the effects of the economic crisis. This initiative is co-led by the International Labour Office and the World Health Organization and involves a group of 17 collaborating agencies, including United Nations agencies and international financial institutions.

The Social Protection Floor approach promotes access to essential social security transfers and social services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, food, housing, life and asset-savings information. It emphasizes the need to implement comprehensive, coherent and coordinated social protection and employment policies to guarantee services and social transfers across the life cycle, paying particular attention to the vulnerable groups.


  1. Technical assistance for capacity-building support to the Ghana Social Opportunities project (GSOP)

    01 July 2015

  2. The World Bank Group and ILO Universal Social Protection Initiative

    30 June 2015

  3. A joint mission and plan of action: Universal social protection to ensure that no one is left behind

    30 June 2015

    Joint statement by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the launch of the World Bank Group and ILO Universal Social Protection Initiative, calling the attention of world leaders to the importance of universal social protection policies and financing.

  4. International Labour Conference 2015: What were the results for the workers?

    26 June 2015

    The 104th session of the International Labour Conference was characterized by the Committee on the Application of Standards resuming its work, examining 24 individual cases of violations of international labour standards. In this interview, President of the Workers’ Group, Luc Cortebeeck, shares the workers’ perspective on the work of that Committee. Mr Cortebeeck also talks about the other issues discussed at this session, such as the transition from the informal to the formal economy, social protection, the discussions about small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the creation of decent and productive jobs, as well as the Director-General’s report on the Future of Work.

  5. Development of dynamic social accounting matrix tool in South Africa

    25 June 2015