News / Africa

ILO: Social Protection a Human Right

Women march with their children to demand longer maternity leave, San Jose, Costa Rica, Jan. 18, 2013.
Women march with their children to demand longer maternity leave, San Jose, Costa Rica, Jan. 18, 2013.


  • Listen to De Capua report on ILO and social protection

Joe DeCapua
A new report says while the need for social protections is widely recognized, many people around the world don’t have them.

The International Labor Organization says less than 30-percent of the population has guaranteed access to such things as health care or unemployment safeguards.
Listen to De Capua report on ILO and social protection
Listen to De Capua report on ILO and social protectioni
|| 0:00:00

The ILO has released its World Social Protection Report: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice. It says that “social protection policies play a critical role…reducing poverty and inequality… and boosting human capital and productivity.”
Christina Behrendt, an ILO senior protection policy specialist, said, “By social protection we mean a broad range of policies that aim at providing people with social security, which is a human right – starting from child and family benefits, unemployment protection, benefits for people with disabilities, maternity benefits, old age pensions, access to health care. So it’s a very, very broad range of benefits.”
The ILO report said inadequate or a lack of social protections “is associated with high and persistent levels of poverty…and growing levels of inequality.”
Share of Unemployed People Receiving BenefitsShare of Unemployed People Receiving Benefits

“They’re basically important in countries al all levels of development because this is really a way for the countries to make sure that the resources in the countries are distributed in a just way. That everyone is benefitting basically from the proceeds of growth as a way of ensuring inclusive growth. So making sure that the benefits of growth are available to everyone,” Behrendt said.
She said such policies are a way for a country to invest in its people. Education is one example of such investment.
“Many countries, especially in developing countries and emerging countries recently, have really taken quite bold steps to invest more in social protection, which was not necessarily the case before. They have really taken these steps as a conscious decision because they felt that the lack of social protection constituted an obstacle to development.”
She said most countries do have some measures in place, but they usually benefit only a small part of the population. The ILO specialist said some lessons about social protections were learned after the global economic crisis struck in 2008.
“Social protections were quite a prominent part in many countries of the fiscal stimulus packages that were introduced. What we did learn is that they actually had a very substantial impact. Actually they had a quite substantial multiplier effect. But especially the cash incomes played a very important role because they were really one way of stimulating the economy,” she said.
However, she said that in 2010, many governments decided to impose fiscal consolidation or austerity measures. Behrendt describes the move as premature.
“That really kind of stumbled and hindered and reduced the domestic demand, which would have been necessary really to keep up the recovery.”
Other lessons, Behrendt said, can be found in the 2013 tragedy in Bangladesh when the eight-story Rana Plaza commercial building collapsed. Over 1,100 people died and more than 2,500 people were injured. And then there was last month’s Soma mine disaster in Turkey in which more than 300 miners were killed.
“There are kind of no mechanisms in place that would provide them with at least some kind of ways to make their living after they’ve been hurt or after some of their family members might have died in these accidents.
She added that less dramatic accidents happen every day and affect many people.
The biggest argument governments use not implement social protections is that they are too expensive.
“Many countries say they are too poor, that they don’t have the fiscal resources to implement those measures. But at the same time what we also see in countries -- which actually do embark on implementing those measures and expanding their social protection systems – what we see there is that is also very much a question of political will,” she said.
The International Labor Organization report calls for universal health coverage. It says more than 90-percent of the population in low-income countries is “without any right to coverage in health.” But Behrendt said more countries are starting to act.
“For example, Thailand within the space of a couple of years was able to achieve universal health coverage. China recently has really taken bold steps to extend health coverage. And, of course, the U.S. also on a very different level has also moved into that direction. And we know that this is really a very important component of any social protection system because the need to have access to health care is really what affects people very immediately.”
The ILO also reported a lack of maternity protection. It said that worldwide, less than 40-percent of working women are covered by law under mandatory cash benefit plans. As for children, the report said that about “18,000 die every day, mainly from preventable causes. It says many of those deaths could be avoided with adequate social protections. 
The ILO proposes that basic social protections should be part of any post-Millennium Development Goals agenda.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs