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Social protection is a human right, says ILO head
February 20 is World Day of Social Justice. Marking the occasion, ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder called for a recovery for all that promotes inclusive growth, employment and social protection.
This is a reality no policy maker can afford to ignore.
Even before the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, half of the world was living below the US$ 2 a day poverty line, millions went hungry and too many had no prospect of securing a decent job.
Six years of weak economic recovery and a faltering policy response have left millions more behind, without jobs and with less affordable food and services.
As a result, we are faced with a deep social crisis, a crisis too of social justice.
Disturbing – and rising levels of inequality – in advanced and developing economies are widely acknowledged as cause for great concern. Today the wealth of the top one per cent of the global population equals that of the poorest 3.5 billion people.
Are policy-makers ready to act?
Social protection measures are essential elements of the policy response. Countries with strong social security systems have reduced their poverty rates by more than half, through social transfers and have significantly reduced inequality.
Social protection is both a human right and sound economic policy. Social security enables access to health care, education and nutrition.
Well-designed social protection systems support incomes and domestic consumption, build human capital, and increase productivity.
Experience since 2008 has also shown that countries with such systems were able to respond more quickly and effectively to the crisis.
Yet over 76 per cent of the world’s population continues to live without adequate health and social protection coverage.
And in the present environment, extension or maintenance of protection may meet with scepticism or be set aside for the future.
It is timely to recall those countries that historically have built sound economies and decent societies with social protection. And more recently, countries in a range of circumstances - from Brazil to Thailand and China to Mozambique have been making considerable efforts to make social protection an integral part of their development strategies. They are showing that affordability cannot be the excuse for inaction.
In 2009, the ILO and UN launched the Social Protection Floor Initiative advocating social protection floors for all. Then, in June 2012 the International Labour Conference adopted the path-breaking ILO Recommendation Concerning National Floors of Social Protection (No. 202). It provides good guidance.
In the face of the social crisis – and the crisis of social justice, we urge policy-makers and policy making to converge on the vision and ambition of a real global socio-economic recovery - a recovery for all - and a Post-2015 Development Agenda that helps lift all out of poverty.
There are options and the choice can be made to prioritize macroeconomic and fiscal policy decisions that promote inclusive growth with decent employment and social protection. This is the strong and sustainable foundation of social justice.
ILO Director-General: "We are faced with a deep social crisis, a crisis too of social justice"
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