The ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102)

The Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), is the flagship of all ILO social security Conventions, as it is the only international instrument, based on basic social security principles, that establishes worldwide-agreed minimum standards for all nine branches of social security. These branches are:
  • medical care;
  • sickness benefit;
  • unemployment benefit;
  • old-age benefit;
  • employment injury benefit;
  • family benefit;
  • maternity benefit;
  • invalidity benefit; and
  • survivors' benefit.
While Convention No. 102 covers all branches, it requires that only three of these branches be ratified by Member states, which allows for the step-by-step extension of social security coverage by ratifying countries.
The minimum objectives of the Convention relate, for all the nine branches, to the percentage of the population protected by social security schemes, the level of the minimum benefit to be secured to protected persons, as well as to the conditions for entitlement and period of entitlement to benefits. Convention No. 102 does not prescribe how to reach these objectives but leaves certain flexibility to the member State. They can be reached through:
  • universal schemes;
  • social insurance schemes with earnings related or flat rate components or both;
  • social assistance schemes.
The principles anchored in Convention No. 102 are:
  • guarantee of defined benefits;
  • participation of employers and workers in the administration of the schemes;
  • general responsibility of the state for the due provision of the benefits and the proper administration of the institutions;
  • collective financing of the benefits by way of insurance contributions or taxation.

Convention No. 102 also requires regular actuarial valuations to be carried out, to ensure the sustainability of the scheme. Furthermore, Convention No. 102 lays down that social security schemes be administered on a tripartite basis, which aims at guaranteeing and strengthening social dialogue between Governments, employers and workers.
Thus, Convention No. 102 is considered as a tool for the extension of social security coverage and provides ratifying countries with an incentive for doing so by offering flexibility in its application, depending on their socio-economic level.

Confirmed as an up-to-date standard by decision of the Governing Body of the ILO in 2001, and recognized by the International Labour Conference in 2011 as a benchmark and reference in the gradual development of comprehensive social security coverage at the national level, Convention No. 102 has been ratified by 48 ILO Member States since its entry into force in 1952, and more ratifications are expected in the years to come. The last country to have ratified Convention No. 102 was Honduras, in 2012.

A number of further countries have ratified the European Code of Social Security, which was modelled on Convention No. 102 but provides higher benefit levels.