The report discusses the effects of rising unemployment and underemployment, and of labour market developments which have exposed a growing number of workers, especially women, to low pay and precarious conditions. It considers other factors, such as changing family structures and demographic trends, that have created new needs and imposed new constraints. Prominence is given to measures addressing the unacceptable bias that still leaves women with lower levels of social protection than men.
According to the report, the positive impact of social protection on the economy has often been neglected, and this impact can be enhanced by better coordination between social protection, labour market and anti-poverty policies. With many social security systems now under reform, future prospects are outlined and an alarm is sounded about the implications of pension fund growth for the instability of global financial markets. Top priority must be given - by civil society, as much as by the State - to finding the most effective means to bring social protection to the majority, especially in developing countries, who still go without.
An efficient economy and an effective system of social protection are both essential for the attainment of income security and a stable society. The report underlines the direct and immediate relationship between the provision of social protection and decent work, as underlined by Juan Somavia, Director-General of the ILO, in his first report to the International Labour Conference in 1999.
Freedom and democracy provide the context for workers' participation in the decisions that affect them. For social protection schemes to reflect workers' legitimate aspirations, democratic institutions must be in place. Good governance is also essential. The ILO is committed to working unstintingly for a world in which all workers benefit from an affordable level of social protection. The report makes concrete suggestions for achieving that goal.
45 Swiss francs