Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors

"Massive social protection gap is not acceptable from a human rights perspective"

Speech by the ILO's Director-General, Guy Ryder at the Launch event for the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors at ILO Headquarters, Geneva

Statement | Geneva, ILO, Room VII (R.2) | 28 October 2015
Mr Jean-Paul Agon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of L’Oréal,

Mrs Linda Kromjong, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of Employers,

What brings us together is the Launch of the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors, and I am delighted to have so many of you here today. I would like to thank you for your commitment and support for this important initiative, which responds to the multiple challenges we know and which have brought us here today.

I would like to focus our thinking on why we are here today. It is unacceptable but it is a fact that seventy-three per cent of the world’s population does not have adequate social protection.
  • Without social health protection, the sick must finance the cost of health-care services from their own pockets, which leads to impoverishment and causes them to delay seeking access to the services they need, if indeed they can.
  • Without social protection, children suffer from food deprivation that can be detrimental to their long-term development. They may lack access to education and other basic services and are at greater risk of falling into child labour.
  • Without social protection, workers are vulnerable to the financial consequences resulting from unemployment, work-related injury, sickness, or maternity. This can present considerable risks to companies in terms of absenteeism and productivity losses as well as in shortages of skilled labour.
  • Without social protection, older women and men have de facto no right to retire and have to continue working as long as they can – often in poorly paid and precarious conditions.
This massive social protection gap is not acceptable from a human rights perspective. But I think it is also a missed opportunity from a purely economic and social development point of view.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

as business leaders, you know that investing in people makes good business sense.

Many of you are already committed to ensuring that your employees and their families have access to medical care and receive financial protection in cases of maternity and paternity, sickness, workplace accidents, old age, or death.

Through the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors, you will be able to share and learn good business practices to improve the well-being of workers, to enhance their productivity, and to attract and retain talent.

However, and I think it’s proper to recognize this, these necessary protections have a cost to you. We believe that these costs can be balanced when there are strong and effective national, public social protection systems.

Through the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors, you can play a proactive role in supporting national processes for the development of social protection in these countries. There is an obvious complementarity in the public and the private effort.

This commitment to support the development of public social protection also helps your business to become a good corporate citizen in the eyes of the public and serves to win trust from governments and other potential business partners.

But finally, all of this makes your employees proud to belong to an enterprise whose corporate vision and core values they share.

So the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors is therefore a little more than an exchange platform. It gives you the opportunity to take your social responsibility efforts to the next level.

And as you may be aware, to extend and make social protection a reality for all, the 186 member States of the International Labour Organization have committed to establish social protection floors.

This commitment led to the unanimous adoption in June 2012 – by consensus among government, worker, and employer representatives – of the ILO’s Social Protection Floors Recommendation, No. 202.

The objective of this Recommendation is to ensure that everyone has access to a minimum level of social protection, including access to essential health care, social protection for children, support in cases of maternity, unemployment, disability, and work injury, and pensions for older persons.

To support this endeavour, I have decided to launch a Global Flagship Programme, a technical cooperation programme, on Building Social Protection Floors for All. It will start at the beginning of next year.

The Global Programme will focus on 21 countries. With this programme, the ILO will go well beyond small and piecemeal interventions to pursue ambitious projects with scale and impact.

The Programme will also be informed by country experiences to develop good practices that can be used elsewhere.

It will be results-oriented, benefiting from efficient impact assessment tools progressively developed by our organization.

We believe that thanks to the Global Programme – and this is our intention - 130 million people will have better access to social protection in the next five years, and 500 million by the end of 2030.

Colleagues, this brings me to a final point I would like to make. You may be aware that the United Nations last month adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These SDGs set a new development agenda for the next 15 years.

There are particular SDGs relating to social protection floors and we hope that the ILO’s Global Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All will contribute to their achievement.

The SDGs provide an extremely helpful environment for our efforts. This raises the question of how companies can integrate the SDGs into their business models in a way that is profitable and productive – and true to their core identities?

I am convinced that the work that we will undertake together as part of the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors will help us respond to those questions.

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you again for your attendance at this launch of the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors.

By being here today, you can shape the Network and participate in its design, and you can rely on the ILO to help and to be supportive. This will be a major part of the work of our organization going forward.

Let me wish you the fullest success in building the Network!