Social Protection

Expanding Social insurance for agricultural workers in the Arab region

Creating space for dialogue between agencies and governments in the Middle East and North Africa is critical to identify options for the expansion of social protection for agricultural workers in the region.

Estimates from the International Labour Organization show that over 90 per cent of agricultural workers in LMICs are in informal employment. These workers are usually not covered by social insurance (SI) schemes and benefits such as old-age pensions, work injury benefits, maternity benefits and health insurance. Several barriers prevent agriculture workers from registering for and accessing SI schemes, including exclusion from legal frameworks, financial barriers, administrative and institutional barriers and participation and informational challenges. At the same time, agriculture workers are more likely to face health, economic, environmental and social risks. This means that one of the population groups most exposed to idiosyncratic and covariate risks is also one of the least protected by SI benefits.

Many low and middle-income countries have adopted various solutions to cover the needs of agriculture workers with social insurance schemes, such as expanding health insurance, offering work injury benefits and setting up unemployment benefits. Against this background, this research aims to understand the main risks faced by agriculture workers in the MENA region and the potential of different social insurance benefits to mitigate them. It builds on the common approach outline developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the ILO to extend social protection to rural populations and the Ministerial Forum Declaration ‘The future of Social Protection in the Arab Region: Building a vision for a post-COVID-19 reality’.

The project supported the production of a series of policy briefs based on the best practices identified through document review and structured discussions with stakeholders and experts.

Policy Brief Series

Three policy briefs were developed, covering the following topics:
IPC-IG, FAO and ILO hosted and organised two online group discussions that aimed at creating a space for open dialogue between different categories of stakeholders in the NENA region, including representatives from relevant ministries (Social Solidarity/Development and Agriculture); authorities from national social security institutions; researchers and members of academia; as well as experts from UN agencies (FAO, ILO, and UNDP).

The agencies also conducted a total of fifteen semi-structured key informant interviews with representatives of agricultural workers from the NENA region between September and November 2021 (online and via telephone).

In addition, a methodological note was developed, summarising the methodology adopted for the three reports.

A webinar was organised by April 2022, with the aim to discuss the main takeways of the project with invited experts and the broader public.