By Anna Carolina Machado and Marina Carvalho
The ILO Global Social Protection Week on “Achieving SDG 1.3 and Universal Social Protection (USP2030) in the Context of the Future of Work” has occurred in Geneva, Switzerland, from 25-28 November 2019.
The main objective of the Conference was to analyse and discuss the possible directions for the future of social protection in face of the ILO’s Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work.
The event was divided in two moments, the first consisted on a two-day High-Level Conference, which was livestreamed through socialprotection.org, followed by a Technical Segment during the last two days (the English audios of part of the sessions are available on the livestream page mentioned above).
During the High-level conference, the main topics addressed and some of the core reflections were the following:
- Social protection as a global priority: There was a consensus that social protection is a human right and investing on it brings high returns, including a positive impact in terms of social justice, economic growth and peace. The political will was highlighted as one of the key factors to have these investments implemented. Keeping in mind the DNA of social protection - universality, solidarity, adequacy and sustainability - countries cannot avoid having comprehensive and (sometimes) difficult conversations to move from minimalist’s safety nets towards robust social protection systems.
- Still 55% without social protection: Social protection is not a reality for a considerable part of the global population yet. In terms of social protection benefits, 45% of the population is covered by at least one social protection benefit, while 55% is still completely unprotected. To close this gap, it is necessary political will and social dialogue to reach a consensus on which policies strategies to implement, identifying the best approaches to ensure social protection for all.
- A common strategy to achieve SDG’s on social protection: under this topic, it was highlighted the need of having a collective action to achieve SDGs on social protection, bringing together different partners and actors, such as governments, civil society, international organizations, private sector and workers organizations. For the success of this process, it is important to achieve the three C’s (coordination, coherence and collaboration). The social dialogue is key to produce long-lasting solutions for social protection systems in face of the new challenges, such as digitalization (industry 4.0), climate change, and growing inequality level between and within countries.
- Increased investments to achieve the SDGs and the creation of fiscal space to finance social protection: there is an urgent need to accelerate investments to achieve the SDGs, especially SDG 1 ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’. In order to mobilize new resources, several policy measures need to be adopted, such as maximize domestic fiscal space, including taxes and social security contributions, foster transitions for the informal to formal economy and strengthen ODA. It is also necessary to think about the missing middle, the informal sector, which corresponds to most employees in some countries. Only through global solidarity this process can be made possible.
During the Technical Segment the event hosted a series of sessions with government representatives and experts from all over the world, which was divided in 6 main streams, namely:
- Achieving universal social protection, covering the uncovered and reducing inequalities: in which 3 different panels presented the challenges and strategies to: expand social protection coverage to informal workers; reduce barriers to include rural dwellers in national social protection systems; and to extend health protection in order to achieve universal health coverage;
- Adapting social protection to a changing world: that discussed the emerging challenges of our days, especially climate change, increased migration inflows and humanitarian crisis in 3 different sessions, ‘social protection and climate change’; ‘extending social protection to migrant workers’ and ‘social protection in the context of humanitarian-development nexus’;
- Building universal social protection systems: where participants had the chance to learn about: the relevance of consolidating social protection systems that are human-rights based; alternatives to building sustainable pensions systems; as well as about experiences of formulating social protection policies and strategies that contribute to a national dialogue between different segments of society.
- Financing sustainable social protection systems: which included sessions that highlighted the importance and the alternatives to create fiscal space for making the realization of SDG 1.3 possible, and also discussed the feasibility of international financing mechanisms for national social protection systems;
- Social protection in the context of the future of work: when panellists and participants debated ideas to make social protection sustainable in the context of labour market transitions; best practices in the face of an increasing number of workers in digital platforms; and the gender aspects of social protection and the care economy;
- Making the right to social protection a reality for all: which discussed the opportunities and risks of new technologies in delivering social protection; the challenges to build a social protection culture at all levels; and the importance of having a tripartite action for the development of sustainable and responsive social protection systems.
Finally, here are the five key messages that we have taken as participants of GSPW:
I. Social Protection is not a cost, but an investment in people and has the potential change lives;
II. Social Protection is a girl’s and women’s best friend, and can be considered key for addressing gender inequality;
III. Social protection is a crucial element when discussing the future of work, as stated in ILO’s Centenary Declaration;
IV. Today 4 billion people still live without social protection (sometimes representing 90% of the population in developing countries), and that’s a matter of action for all States (including high-income countries);
V. There is no social contract without social justice and strengthened social protection systems are a powerful weapon to fight inequality and build a more equal society for all.