13 March 2012, New Delhi: The “Social Protection Floor” (SPF) is a basic set of social rights, services and facilities that every person should enjoy. The United Nations suggests that a social protection floor could possibly consist of two main elements that help to realize human rights:
a) Services: Geographical and Financial Access to essential services such as water and sanitation, health and education.
b) Transfers: A basic set of essential social transfers, in cash or in kind, to provide minimum income security and access to essential services, including health care.
Social security is a basic human right enshrined in many international legal documents like the 1944 International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration of Philadelphia or the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beyond the normative argument of providing a life dignity for all members of society, there is ample evidence of the beneficial socio-economic impacts of social security programmes.
Social security contributes to preventing social unrest, fosters economic growth, prevents and alleviates poverty and helps countries to achieve sustainable development models. And yet, extending social security coverage to the entire world population represents a considerable challenge. Social security represents an investment in a country’s “human infrastructure” no less important than investments in its physical infrastructure. Investing in a Social Protection Floor equates to investing in social justice and economic development. Social protection schemes are important tools to reduce poverty and inequality. They do not only help to prevent individuals and their families from falling or remaining in poverty, they also contribute to economic growth by raising labour productivity and enhancing social stability. The global financial and economic crisis proved how key a role social protection plays as an automatic economic stabilizer.
The Social Protection Floor concept has become widely recognized and accepted at various international, regional and national conferences over the course of 2009 and 2010 including the G20 and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summits. The Bolsa Familia conditional cash transfer in Brazil and the Progresa/Oportunidades conditional cash tranfer in Mexico are examples of national social protection floor policies that have shown success in reducing extreme poverty and providing social security as a human right.
The ILO has adopted further initiatives to support international efforts aimed towards the realization of social security for all. In 2003, it launched the Global Campaign on Social Security and Coverage for All, reflecting a global consensus on the part of governments and employers' and workers' organizations to broaden social security coverage among working people, particularly in the informal economy, and raising awareness about the role of social security in economic and social development. The campaign also seeks to develop a broad partnership involving international organizations, donor countries, social security institutions and civil society organizations.
This was elaborated in 2008 into the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization to promote and achieve progress and social justice through the four strategic objectives of the ILO's Decent Work Agenda: the promotion of fundamental rights, employment creation, social protection and social dialogue. And, recently in 2011, the recurrent discussion on the strategic objective of social protection (social security) at the 100th International Labour Conference came out with strong conclusions regarding the extension of social security to all through national defined social protection floors.
Regardless, around 40% of the world’s population are under the international poverty line of US$ 2 a day falling through the prescribed social protection floor. At the moment, only 20% of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage, and more than half lack any coverage at all. With the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in June 2012 there is increasing recognition among the governments, international agencies and civil society organisations that social protection can play as pivotal role in preventing and reducing poverty, and promoting social and economic development.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Chairperson, Global March Against Child Labour, “Social Protection Floors are missing links in human rights, social security and human security. However, the challenge is to mainstream social protection floor within the MDG and post-2015 discourse. The social protection floors have to been operational at the national levels – embedded into economic sustainability, as social and political neccesity, and contributor to the achievement of the development goals.” Elaborating on national social protection floors he said that Brazil and Mexico have successfully demonstrated conditional cash transfer, whereas India through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) financed entirely through domestic funds has extended basic social securtiy coverage to millions not previously covered. Not only does the initiative support the achievement of the MDGs, it also builds strong coalitions at the national, regional, and global levels between all stakeholders to achieve progress in building social protection floors for all.
He added, “Global March firmly places child labour elimination as a pre-requisite to achieving the MDGs, reducing poverty, education for all, gender parity, health and sustainable development. Social protection floors provide the right integration of human rights and human and social security to put an end to child labour and promote education for all.”