Social protection systems that work for women’s rights

Sigi-banner-for-blogBy Shahra Razavi, Chief of Research and Data, UN Women


This blog is part of a special series marking the intersection between
the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI),
the
2019 SIGI Global Report and work on Social Protection


Social-protection-women-cashGender-responsive social protection systems have been very effective in mitigating the inequalities generated by markets. Take the case of work-related benefits, such as maternity and parental leave and sickness and unemployment benefits. Thanks to these transfers, the gender gap in disposable incomes in a range of high- and middle-income countries becomes much smaller than the gap in market incomes, while affordable childcare services have been pivotal in giving women, especially mothers, a foothold in the labour market.

Globally, however, only 41% of mothers with newborns receive a maternity benefit, with coverage rates as low as 16% in Africa. Widespread labour market informality is at the root of this exclusion. Yet, in Chile, Costa Rica and South Africa, social insurance-based leave schemes have been extended to cover informal wage workers, such as domestic workers and seasonal agricultural labourers. Mongolia provides an interesting combination of contributory and non-contributory benefits, including maternity cash benefits to all pregnant women and mothers of infants regardless of their contribution to the social insurance scheme, employment status or nationality. In recent decades, child- and family-related allowances have also gained traction in developing countries. Their aim is to offset some of the costs of raising children while promoting basic income security and investing in children’s capabilities. Such schemes mostly target mothers on the premise that women are more likely than men to prioritise child-oriented spending.

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Gender and social protection: fighting for equality and against poverty

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By Liévin Feliho, Chief Executive Officer, SOLIHO; Former Government Commissioner at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health in France  


This blog is part of a special series marking the intersection between
the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI),
the
2019 SIGI Global Report and work on Social Protection


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According to the International Labor Organization (ILO)1, only a minority of the world’s inhabitants (45.2%) enjoy at least one social protection benefit today. If this protection amounts to 84.1% in Europe, it is in Africa that the situation is most worrying with only 17.8% of the population covered. It is difficult to have a fair assessment of women’s coverage level since most of the available and disaggregated data only concern benefits provided to mothers with newborns.2 Evidence points to the fact that, regarding social protection also, women are structural victims.

The Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) promulgated on March 23, 2010 by President Barack Obama and the 2011 report on the Social Protection Floor for a Fair and Inclusive Globalization by the advisory group chaired by Michelle Bachelet, set by ILO with the collaboration of the WHO, have increased awareness around the concept of social protection. After the economic and financial crisis of 2008, these initiatives allowed policy makers from poor countries to more freely defend the idea of institutional solidarity. Indeed, Africans had prioritised social protection since at least the early 2000s3 but poor governance and the conflicting requirements of donors in budgetary matters have failed to bring to fruition their ambitions in the area of social protection and health. So, what does this specifically mean for African women and social protection? Three considerations follow:

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Why looking at discriminatory social institutions is critical for the gender-responsiveness of social protection policies

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By Gaëlle Ferrant and Caroline Tassot, Economists, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a special series marking the intersection between
the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)
the 2019 SIGI Global Report and work on Social Protection


SIGI-Gender-Social-ProtectionThe call for leaving no one behind includes extending social protection to excluded groups, such as vulnerable women, and providing all women with similar benefits as men. For instance, despite the universal provision of paid maternity leave (only 2 out of the 180 SIGI1 countries do not provide paid maternity or parental leave for mothers), only 41% of mothers with newborns receive a maternity benefit (with fewer than 16% in Africa), while 83 million remain uncovered (ILO, 2017). In Europe, the relatively narrow gender gap in old-age pension coverage (6.5 percentage points) hides extensive gender disparities in the actual benefits: women’s pensions are, on average, 40% lower than those of men (Directorate for Citizens Rights and Constitutional Affairs, 2016).

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably SDG 5 on gender and SDG 1.3 on social protection, means better understanding the conditions that will allow such universal social protection coverage to translate into fair and equal outcomes at all stages of the lifecycle for women and men. This is exactly what the Commission on the Status of Women will discuss in New York this March (11-22 March 2019). It is also at the heart of the Joint Statement by the Social Protection Inter-Agency Co-operation Board (SPIAC-B), in which the OECD Development Centre is a member.

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Social protection systems: not simple, but worth the effort

By Alexander Pick, Economist, OECD Development Centre


Check out the upcoming international conference Together to achieve Universal Social Protection by 2030 for more on this topic


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School kids in Kabupaten Karimon, Indonesia. Photo: Shutterstock

A systematic approach lies at the core of universal social protection. However, it is not immediately obvious what the term means, or why it is so important. After all, do we not take other systems for granted, like the system of government or health and education systems?

A social protection system must reflect the needs of the people it covers — ideally the entire population, throughout their lives and whatever their income — and it must incorporate the full range of different programmes that exist as well as the multitude of institutions involved. It must also harness different financing mechanisms for sustained and sustainable expansion. The fundamental objective of a social protection system is to get these moving parts working together to ensure coordination and coherence – to fill gaps, avoid duplication and optimise resource allocations to provide effective coverage against the most important risks people face. Continue reading

Understanding coverage: what does universal social protection really mean?

By Ugo Gentilini, Senior Economist, Margaret Grosh, Senior Advisor, and Michal Rutkowski, Senior Director, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, The World Bank


Check out the upcoming international conference Together to achieve Universal Social Protection by 2030 for more on this topic


wiego_accra_informalecon-e1548680858900.jpgThe notion that social protection is “universal” rests on two elements, namely that “everyone” is “covered.”

In many cases, the debate revolves around the “everyone” aspect – that is, the rationale and modalities to cover all members of society and not just some. Yet, this assumes clarity on the meaning of “coverage.” This is a big assumption.

In health insurance, for example, the goal is to provide coverage to all, so that in the event people fall sick, they get health services. For contributory pensions, unemployment or disability insurance programmes, coverage is used in an analogous way.

In most periods, people covered by such insurances will benefit from a guarantee or a promise of help when needed, but not necessarily from a payout. In pensions, people are covered for many years before they receive a payment; and many may never be unemployed and hence receive a payout for such a shock.

For social assistance, instead, coverage is often interpreted as receiving an actual transfer. This is quite a difference and a critical issue to clarify.

Such a difference in definition has implications for universal social protection in three ways.

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