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. © Ollivier Girard / CIFOR 2015

    More than half of the world’s older persons lack quality long-term care

    01 October 2015

    A new ILO study reveals a global shortfall of 13.6 million care workers undermining the delivery of quality services to more than half of the world’s older persons.

  2. Long-term care (LTC) protection for older persons: A review of coverage deficits in 46 countries

    24 September 2015

    Due to the global demographic ageing, all countries are challenged by growing longterm care (LTC) needs for older persons. However, these needs are largely ignored and range very low on the policy agendas of most countries. This paper has developed global estimates on LTC protection of persons aged 65 and over.

  3. “After the crisis: Challenges for labour markets, now and in the future”

    23 September 2015

    Remarks by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the Institute of International and European Affairs.

  4. © UN Photo/Martine Perret 2015

    Social protection for all to change people’s lives by 2030

    21 September 2015

    As the international community gets ready to formally endorse the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the ILO’s Isabel Ortiz explains why social protection is a key component of the new global development agenda.

  5. © ILO/Truong Van Vi 2015

    Grow the economy with a well-balanced diet

    14 September 2015

    ILO Deputy Director-General Gilbert Houngbo shows the connection between decent work, acceptable living standards and economic growth, which together will help achieve several other sustainable development goals.