International Labour Conference ends with a commitment to establish national social protection floors
ILO, Geneva, 17 June 2011. The International Labour Conference, at its 100th Session, has concluded its discussions on the role of social security with a commitment to establishing national social protection floors aiming at extending at least a minimum level of social security to all, as part of comprehensive social security systems.
The extension of social security to all has moved a decisive step forward. At its 100th Session, the International Labour Conference* has adopted a Resolution on social protection (social security) which reconfirms the role of social security as a human right and a social and economic necessity for countries at all levels of development. This Resolution expresses the commitment of governments, employers and workers in the 183 member States of the ILO to step up their efforts to build national social protection floor as part of their national strategies to develop comprehensive social security systems. The Resolution reflects the outcome of the second Recurrent Discussion on the ILO's strategic objectives in the context of the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2008).
The Resolution on social protection endorses a two-dimensional strategy to the extension of social security to all aiming at building comprehensive social security systems, as laid out in the ILO Report submitted to the Conference**. The horizontal dimension of the two-dimensional strategy aims at the rapid implementation of national Social Protection Floors, introducing basic social security guarantees that ensure that over the life cycle all in need have effective access to health care and a minimum level of income security. Such policies aim at facilitating effective access to essential goods and services, promote productive economic activity and be implemented in close coordination with other policies enhancing employability, reducing informality and precariousness, creating decent jobs and promoting entrepreneurship. The vertical dimension of the two-dimensional strategy seeks to provide progressively higher levels of protection, guided by the ILO up-to-date social security standards, to as many people as possible as soon as possible. The two dimensions of the extension of coverage are consistent with moving towards compliance with the requirements of the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102) and are of equal importance and should be pursued simultaneously where possible.
The Conference stressed that social dialogue is essential in identifying and defining priority policy objectives; the design of the corresponding benefits, entitlements and delivery methods; the allocation of the financial burden between generations and between contributors and tax payers; and the need to find a fair balance between social expectations and financial constraints.
Representatives from the IMF, ISSA, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank declared their support for the Social Protection Floor and the extension of social protection. They welcomed the increasing collaboration between the agencies and the complementarities and synergies that this joint work brought which in the end benefitted countries around the world.
The Conference noted the need for a new Recommendation complementing existing ILO international social security standards "that would provide flexible but meaningful guidance to member States in building Social Protection Floors within comprehensive social security systems tailored to national circumstances and level of development." In view of the importance of, and the need for national Social Protection Floors, the Governing Body of the ILO has therefore decided that the 101th Session of the International Labour Conference in 2012 should discuss this possible Recommendation as a follow-up to the discussion in 2011. If adopted, this Recommendation would provide a non-binding guideline to member States on the implementation of national Social Protection Floors as a means to reducing poverty and promoting sustainable economic and social development.
The Chair of the Social Protection Floor Advisory Group and Executive Director of UN Women, former President of the Republic of Chile, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, stated in her address to the Committee on the Recurrent Discussion on Social Protection on 13 June 2011 that "the extension of social protection, drawing on social protection floors, universalizing social rights and access to basic services, is not an utopia. It is necessary, possible and effective." The Executive Director of the Social Protection Sector, Mr. Assane Diop, noted that the adoption of the Resolution by the Committee marked a "day of hope ... for the five billion people around the world who do not enjoy the full range of social security benefits, whose pensions are too low, whose access to health care is not sufficient, who have no means of support in case of unemployment" and "for the about one billion people that have virtually no social security and face the risks of life and economic upheavals completely unprotected."
* The 183 member States of the ILO meet annually at the International Labour Conference, held in Geneva, Switzerland. Each member State is represented by a delegation consisting of two government delegates, an employer delegate, a worker delegate and their respective advisers. This year the International Labour Conference meets for its 100th Session.
** ILO (2011). Social security for social justice and a fair globalization: Recurrent discussion on social protection (social security) under the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, Geneva, International Labour Office.