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More Than Half the World’s Population Lacks Social Protection

In this photo taken June 17, 2017, men, women and children line up to be registered with the World Food Program for food distribution in Old Fangak, in Jonglei state, one of the worst affected areas for food insecurity in South Sudan.

The International Labor Organization says a majority of the world’s population, four billion people, have no social protection, leaving them mired in an endless cycle of poverty.

The report says 45 percent of the global population is covered by at least one social benefit. But that leaves 55 percent without any social protection, a situation ILO Director General Guy Ryder calls unacceptable.

"That means that they do not receive any child benefit, any maternity benefit, any unemployment protection, any disability benefit, any old age pension and that they do not actively contribute to social security systems," Ryder said.

The consequences are severe and tangible. The report finds the lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to illness, poverty, inequality and social exclusion. The ILO regards the situation as a significant obstacle to economic growth and social development.

Ryder tells VOA governments would benefit from considering social protection as an investment in their populations.

“Social protection is a human right and we should be pursuing it because it is a human right," Ryder said. "But, also, I think there is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate that when social protection systems are in place and where they function well and one can think of the whole cycle of protection from kids right through to old age, then you reap economic benefits from it.”

The report says the lack of social protection is most acute in Africa, Asia, and the Arab States. It recommends those regions increase their public expenditure to at least guarantee basic social security coverage to all their people.