GENEVA (ILO News) – The Chairperson of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group and Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Michelle Bachelet, has said that the implementation of social protection floors can offer an effective response to the increasing demands for social justice in many countries.
Ms Bachelet – a former President of Chile – warned that despite some progress over the past decades, 1.44 billion people are still living on less than US$ 1.25 a day and close to a third of the world’s population, 1.75 billion, experience multidimensional poverty with deprivations in health, economic opportunities and living standards. At the same time, around 75 per cent of people worldwide do not have access to adequate social security.
“All these indicators represent a social liability that threatens political stability and undermines economic prosperity”, she said before a group of international experts on social protection. “Nowadays, the most evident expression of such a liability is the social unrest that appears to be spreading and intensifying. The cascade of popular uprisings in North Africa and in the Middle East is of course a pertinent illustration of this and underlines a legitimate desire for economic opportunities, social justice and social protection”.
“The implementation of social protection floors can respond in many countries to calls for social cohesion, political stability and resilient economic growth”, added Ms Bachelet. “The Floor is a feasible and sustainable solution that very much corresponds with the reality of our time in which some countries are facing increasing social unrest and sluggish economic recovery”.
Ms Bachelet was the key speaker during a consultative workshop organized at the International Labour Office on the Social Protection Floor (SPF). She was also in Geneva to chair the second meeting of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group.
The Social Protection Floor is a set of basic social security rights and transfers, as well as essential services in the area of employment, health, water and sanitation, nutrition, education and family-support, to protect and empower poor and vulnerable people to work out of poverty. These social policies must be combined in a coherent and integral life cycle approach and have a special focus on the most vulnerable groups of society, including women, children and youth.
Ms Bachelet said the global economic crisis had shown that countries that had invested and continued to invest in social spending during the recession had fared better than those that resorted to cuts.
“Beyond the social impacts, the evidence has demonstrated the positive effects of social protection policies in enhancing labour market participation by both men and women and greater enterprising risk taking; all of which can contribute overall to better macro-economic performance and productivity”, she said.
Ms Bachelet also called on the international community – and the G20 in particular – to support the Social Protection Floor as a way of addressing the imbalances that led to the global economic crisis and which are still present.
“Too much effort has been put into the discussions on how to address global imbalances via currency, financial and monetary mechanisms”, she said. “Less attention has been given to income-led strategies focused on people and enterprises and real economy issues. Perhaps it is time for the G20 to shift its focus towards more people-oriented issues such as employment, social protection and female empowerment”.
Ms Bachelet called for social protection floors to be integrated into national development plans, adding that this is not a “one-size-fits-all-solution” but rather a “flexible, integrated and gradualist approach that can be tailored to fit specifics circumstances and current institutional and financial capacities”.
She also said the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, regional development banks as well as the donor community have a fundamental role to play in taking the Social Protection Floor initiative forward.
“The Floor represents a radically realistic strategy that can enable us to shape our world for the better in a coherent fashion. It can provide a permanent exit route from many of the economic and social crises that confront us today. It is a tool with which we can build a future where social justice and sustainable economic prosperity can prevail”, she concluded.
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