Social Protection

5th meeting of the Social Protection, Freedom and Justice for Workers Network

This meeting offered an opportunity to share information with the network, exchange experiences, and discuss regional and national perspectives, challenges and opportunities to progressively achieving universal social protection in the context of transformations in the world of work.



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 partnerships of the ILO's Global Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All, the network was created to support workers' organizations in the promotion and defence of the right to social security. Through capacity-building, awareness raising and knowledge-sharing, the network intends to strengthen the capacities of workers to defend social protection and meaningfully participate in national dialogues on social protection. Workers' organizations have a decisive role to play in the various dimensions of social protection in the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1.3 on social protection systems and floors in line with relevant ILO standards. Workers’ organizations are also key to safeguard acquired rights that are threatened by inadequate short-term adjustment measures and social security reforms.

The last two years have been particularly challenging for workers around the world, as countries had to face the unprecedented and severe health and socio-economic effects due to the COVID19 pandemic, which lead to one of the deepest recessions the world has ever witnessed. This crisis has functioned as a wake-up call on the urgency of making progress on the SDGs on social protection for eradicating poverty, achieving universal health coverage (UHC) and making decent work a reality for all. Even prior to the pandemic, the situation of social protection worldwide was already concerning, with more than half of the world’s population, or 53 per cent – as many as 4.1 billion people, not being able to enjoy their right to social security at all. The COVID-19 crisis has shed further light on the devastating consequences of these persisting gaps in coverage and adequacy.

The pandemic has also served to remind the international community of the importance of social protection. From its start until May 2022, more than 211 countries and territories around the world have devised over 1,888 measures to contain the challenges posed by the pandemic. On the one hand, governments and social partners have had to quickly respond to the effects of COVID-19 on human health and the increasing strains it has put on national health systems. On the other hand, they have had to address the devastating social and economic consequences of this crisis to rescue struggling businesses and workers who have lost their jobs and are in a situation of income insecurity and deprivation. At the international level, social partners have been very active in advocating for innovative solutions to support the mobilization of resources to help countries to protect workers, including through the Call for Action and the establishment of a Global Fund for Social Protection.

In light of the urgency accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic to establish universal, comprehensive, sustainable and adequate social protection systems, the Resolution and conclusions concerning the second recurrent discussion on the strategic objective of social protection (social security), adopted by the International Labour Conference (ILC) in June 2021, called upon ILO member States to commit with strong political will and through strong social dialogue to progressively and as soon as possible build and maintain universal, comprehensive, sustainable and adequate social protection systems. To achieve a job-rich recovery and a just transition to a sustainable and inclusive economy, the ILO together with the UN has adopted in September 2021 a Global Accelerator for Jobs and Social Protection that would create at least 400 million jobs and extend social protection to 4 billion women, men and children currently without coverage.

On the way to human-centred recovery from COVID-19, Governments, together with social partners, should seize this moment to strengthen their social protection systems, including floors, as a cornerstone of the national social and economic architecture. The creation of fiscal space to finance social protection is a critical aspect of the recovery strategy. Social dialogue and consultations with social partners and other stakeholders are particularly important for coordinated policy responses. As the prolonged COVID-19 crisis continues, and as countries start to emerge from it, and as pressures increase to reduce spending and put in place austerity measures, it will be crucial for workers’ representatives to be actively engaged and consulted to ensure that they can effectively shape potential reform measures to safeguard social outcomes.

Workers’ organizations are not passive bystanders, but agents of change that can develop new pathways for a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient and in line with the priorities set out in the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, the Global call to action as well as in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.