Social protection

Social security is a powerful tool to ensure minimum living standards, combat causes and effects of poverty, and facilitate smooth income redistribution from working years to retirement.

Social security covers all measures related to provisions of benefits in cash or in kind, to secure protection, inter alia, from the lack of work-related income (or insufficient income) caused by sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, old age, or death of a family member, lack of access or unaffordable access to health care, insufficient family support, particularly for children and adult dependants, general poverty and social exclusion.

The adoption of Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202) at the 101th Session of International Labour Conference in June 2012 constitutes an important milestone for the International Labour Organization (ILO). Since its creation in 1919, the ILO has actively promoted policies and provided assistance to countries to supply adequate levels of social protection to all members of society guided by international social security standards adopted by its tripartite constituents and in particular its flagship Convention concerning Minimum standards of social security, 1952 (No. 102).

Today many CIS countries are further reviewing their social security systems in order to make them more financially viable and sustainable in the current socio-economic contexts. The inherited Soviet social security system still serves as a foundation of their social security systems whereas constant budgetary constraints are considered as one of the main obstacles for making effective social security reforms. Thus, each country has to find its way to carry out structural changes of national social security systems, based on its own limited resources.

Reform of national pension schemes is the major issue across the region, with most countries already introduced the individual saving account systems (either defined contribution-based or notionally defined contribution-based) along with the defined benefit (DB) scheme (in the CIS region, the terminology of ‘pay-as-you-go’ system (PAYG) is still commonly and widely used instead of DB scheme). Some countries have privatized their pension systems partially or fully (Russia and Kazakhstan).

In Caucasus, all countries are either in the process of or already started introducing private pension system. In Armenia, from January 1, 2014 a mandatory funded pension system was introduced for the public sector workers but it remains as voluntary for the workers in the private sector.

In Central Asia, the phased introduction of the multi-pillar pension system started in the Republic of Tajikistan from 1 January 2013. Efforts to expand benefit provisions in these countries are constrained by the existence of large scaled informal economy. Also, insufficient understanding of compliance needs to meet the contribution requirement by the employers in both formal and informal sectors is also considered as one of the obstacles for expanding social security coverage.

In response to the shortage of pension revenues, some of CIS countries have already increased the retirement age. Armenia was the first CIS country to gradually introduce equal retirement age for women and men. In Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan the retirement age (60 years for men and 55 for women) has not changed since soviet time.

ILO Decent Work Team and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (DWT/CO-Moscow) provides advisory services and technical assistance to governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations as well as social security institutions by:
  • providing policy advices for restructuring national social security systems in accordance with the international labour standards, namely ILO Convention No.102 on Social Security (Minimum Standards) and Recommendation No.202 on Social protection floors to ensure basic social protection for all;
  • promoting the national social protection floors, based on assessment based national dialogues (ABNDs);
  • promoting greater gender equality on social security.