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Social protection expands despite crisis, ILO-World Bank report says

A new ILO-World Bank report and online data tool shows that social protection systems expanded in many parts of the world between 2008 and 2010.

News | 07 June 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) –A new ILO-World Bank report and online data tool presented at the 101st International Labour Conference shows that social protection systems  expanded in many parts of the world between 2008 and 2010.

Confronted with increasing needs due to the economic crisis, social security programmes actually expanded in the majority of countries surveyed. This trend is one of the many findings identified in a joint ILO-World Bank report entitled, “Inventory of Policy Responses to the Financial and Economic Crisis.”

“The study accompanies a new online data tool that includes the first comprehensive stocktaking of  countries' jobs-related policy responses to the recent global crisis. It is now available to policy-makers and researchers all over the world”, explains ILO Senior Economist Catherine Saget.

The report points out that 69 out of 77 countries under study (and with available data), expanded their social insurance and social assistance programmes. Three countries implemented austerity measures in response to the financial crisis, while nine countries took both expansionary and austerity measures. Most countries expanded their existing schemes, while others introduced new ones. Many of these countries took measures ensuring basic income security and access to essential health care, demonstrating the importance of national social protection floors also in building crisis responses. The study also shows the distribution of social protection responses by type of social security between 2008 and 2010.

Distribution of social protection responses by branches of social security (2008-10)
Countries which had few social protection protection programmes in place before the crisis had fewer options when confronted with a sudden increase in the need for social protection coverage. The countries which experienced this challenge often introduced food subsidies and food cards (Bangladesh, Paraguay, Pakistan).  Due to the ease and rapidity with which public employment programmes can be implemented, these programmes also became an option, although, to a lesser degree than some other measures.

Another finding is that many high income countries amended their unemployment benefit systems, including 23 countries out of 77 which took expansionary measures. Most middle income countries, lacking established unemployment schemes, extended cash transfers and public employment programmes. In low-income countries, food subsidies and, to a lesser extent, public employment programmes, were a common option.

Even though these efforts provided additional social security coverage to many jobseekers and low income households, the crisis also reemphasized that some of these social assistance programmes were fragmented and not always well-coordinated.

Many countries introduced or strengthened non-contributory pension schemes. Panama implemented an income support programme for persons over the age of 70 who were not receiving an old-age pension. Uganda introduced a pilot pension scheme for the elderly. France introduced a minimum old-age pension for farmers, while  Romania created a non-contributory old-age pension.

With regards to health care schemes, the report cites the example of Ghana, where the heatlh insurance premium of nearly 30,000 households was paid by the government.

Finally, a number of countries revoked wholly or partially the pension reforms of the 1990s or early 2000s that had sought to privatize a part of the social security pension schemes.