Basic social security remains out of reach for most people across the world, especially in poorer countries, despite the crucial role it plays in cushioning people from the consequences of economic crises, according to a United Nations report unveiled today.
The World Social Security Report 2010-2011 examines the gaps in access to social security programmes in areas such as health care, pensions, social assistance, and unemployment benefits. It shows that most of the world’s working age population and their families lack effective access to comprehensive social protection systems.
Worldwide, nearly 40 per cent of the working-age population is legally covered by contributory old-age pension plans, according to the report. Unemployment insurance schemes were the most common type of social protection measures used to respond to the crisis, it adds, while also noting that only 64 out of 184 countries for which information is available had such unemployment schemes in place when the survey started.
In North America and Europe, this number is nearly double, while in Africa less than one-third of the working-age population is covered even by legislation. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 5 per cent of the working-age population is effectively covered by these programs, while this share is about 20 per cent in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the report, social security plays an important role in times of economic crisis, including the current one, as an “irreplaceable economic, social and political stabilizer” that provides income replacement and helps stabilize aggregate demand, without negatively effecting economic growth. Well-designed unemployment plans, social assistance and public works programs effectively prevent long-term unemployment and help shorten recovery from economic recession, the report states.