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Bachelet: the right to social security, a matter of “the highest urgency” |


Michelle Bachelet attended the very first intersessional roundtable on the right to social security hosted by the Human Rights Council.

The aim was to identify challenges and best practices, through a debate among member states, UN agencies, treaty bodies and civil society, among others.

For Ms. Bachelet, there is no better time to talk about social security and social protection. Due to the pandemic, 255 million jobs were lost in 2020 alone.

“Gaps in the coverage of social protection systems and inadequate social protection benefits have contributed to inequalities that have accelerated and deepened the impacts of COVID-19[female[feminine», Declared the High Commissioner.

Good examples

Social security facilitates access to health care, protects people against poverty and guarantees basic economic and social rights, including food, water, housing, health and education.

High Commissioner says member states ‘clearly recognized’ the importance of social safety nets last year, when they responded to the pandemic with unprecedented protective measures to mitigate its social, economic and health impacts .

At the height of the crisis, from Malawi to Peru, the Philippines, Finland and the United States, governments quickly expanded their social assistance programs.

They introduced new cash transfers to many people who are generally excluded, including informal workers, mostly women and the self-employed, working in the growing app-based “gig economy”.

In Argentina and Bolivia, for example, resources have been used to advance more progressive tax systems, thereby creating greater fiscal space for social protection.

“But many of these measures were temporary,” Bachelet warned.“And in each region, much remains to be done to make the right to social security a reality for all. ”

Now, she argued, member states should shift from temporary and ad hoc measures from the early months of the pandemic to longer-term policies.

Lack of coverage

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) World Social Protection Report, more than half of the world’s population currently has no social protection coverage.

Only 26% of the world’s children receive social protection benefits and less than half of women with a newborn baby worldwide receive cash maternity assistance. Only about 30% of people with severe disabilities receive disability benefits.

The ongoing transition to a green economy and the introduction of new technologies are also changing the work landscape, especially for the most disadvantaged.

“Social security is an essential toolkit to help workers navigate these changes and build invaluable resilience for the economy as a whole,” Ms. Bachelet said.

For the High Commissioner, not only is this type of protection “a fundamental human right”, but it is also “indispensable for the exercise of many other rights and necessary for a life in dignity”.

Work in progress

Renewal of solidarity is a cornerstone of the Secretary-General’s actionCommon agenda, which aims to tackle inequalities and guide how the world can best recover from the pandemic.

For Ms. Bachelet, in this context, international cooperation with the least developed countries “is essential and will benefit everyone”.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) works to advance social protection systems around the world, prioritization of health budgets and broader participation of health workers and communities in social protection systems.

“Social protection systems are not a drain on resources: they are an invaluable investment in healthy societies,” the High Commissioner concluded.

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