How can Unions contribute to the achievement of universal social protection?

The ILO's Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) launched a new resource package on social protection to assist workers and their organizations. Ursula Kulke, Senior Social Protection Specialist, explains the objectives of this resource package and the role of Unions to achieve universal social protection.

News | 14 September 2022
Ursula Kulke,  ILO Senior Social Protection Specialist

ACTRAV INFO: The ILO is launching a new resource package on social protection. Why this package is important for workers and their organizations?

ACTRAV has developed a social protection resource package for workers’ organizations with a view to providing guidance specifically to workers’ representatives to contribute to informed and comprehensive policy making and implementation in the defense of workers’ rights in the field of social protection. The resource package encompasses a Workers’ Guide to ILO Conventions concerning minimum standards of social security and a series of policy briefs on “What workers‘ organizations need to know“ addressing a number of key issues in current social protection debates and policy discussions, and providing in particular policy options for closing gender gaps in social protection, extending social protection to informal economy workers, finding fiscal space for social protection financing and implementing adequate pension schemes and reforms. They highlight the challenges countries are facing regarding social protection and how these challenges can be overcome.

While the issues at stake are clear and trade unions have been organizing for policy changes for a long time, it is important to enhance the capacity of workers’ representatives to develop comprehensive short, medium and long-term social protection strategies, aiming at finding the fiscal space for social protection and extending coverage to the unprotected population, ensuring sustainability and adequacy of pensions, which are at the heart of any social protection system, as well as ensuring that social protection policies are reinforcing gender equality. Workers’ representatives need to know which policy choices exist, how much they cost, what are their implications and how countries in comparable situations overcame related challenges. This is of particular importance in view of ensuring an economic and social recovery from the Covid-19 crisis that is fully inclusive, sustainable and resilient.

ACTRAV INFO: What are the key objectives of this resource package ?

The Workers’ guide to ILO Conventions concerning minimum standards of social security will serve as a valuable resource, giving practical guidance foremost to workers’ organizations, but also to ILO officials, governments, employers‘ organizations and other partners active in this field to better understand the importance of ILO social security standards, and in particular Convention No. 102. We want workers’ representatives to play an active role in supporting the ratification campaign on Convention No. 102, which the ILO launched in June 2022.

The policy brief on Extending social protection coverage to informal economy workers aims at helping workers' representatives to better understand the complexity of and the challenges for extending social protection coverage to workers in the informal economy, and highlights through good practice examples the different policy choices which countries have implemented to overcome these challenges.

The policy brief on Closing gender gaps in social protection provides an overview of the root causes of gender-related social protection gaps and the ILO’s strategy for filling them. It offers a wide range of successful examples of gender responsive social protection programmes and reforms from around the world that workers’ representatives may use as a reference for promoting gender-responsive social protection policies in their respective countries.

The policy brief on Creating fiscal space for financing social protection intends to provide workers’ representatives with a better understanding of the challenges related to the creation of fiscal space for social protection financing and the different policy options to overcome these challenges with a view to effectively contributing to policy discussions on mobilizing resources for adequate investments in universal social protection at country level.

The brief on Pension models worldwide from an ILO perspective evidences that workers’ organizations can make a vital contribution to informed discussions on pension reform policies and their implementation at the national level. To that end, they need to know which pension policy options are the best for their country, what ILO social security Conventions say regarding the different pension models, be aware of the various financing mechanisms and understand the implications of each option for social protection coverage and benefits.

ACTRAV INFO: How can Unions contribute to the achievement of universal social protection?

With a view to achieving universal social protection, workers’ representatives can make a vital contribution to informed policy discussion and their implementation at national level. To that end, they need to know which social protection policy options are the best for their country and be aware of the implications of each option for social protection coverage and benefits. In fact, sound technical knowledge among workers’ representatives contributes to the formulation and implementation of national social protection policies and legal frameworks that are in line with ILO social security standards, as recently reaffirmed in the Resolution and Conclusions concerning the second recurrent discussion on the strategic objective of social protection, adopted by the tripartite constituents at the International Labour Conference in June 2021.
In addition to that, the ILO encourages workers’ organizations to actively promote the ratification and effective implementation of Convention No. 102 and the other up-to-date ILO social security standards with the support of ACTRAV in this regard. In countries where it is not ratified, Convention No. 102 should act as a guiding framework for governments and social partners when developing social security policies and legislation.

Workers’ organizations are not passive bystanders, but agents of change able to develop new pathways for a COVID-19 recovery with adequate and sustainable social protection leaving no one behind. Therefore, strengthening the capacity of workers’ organizations is essential to ensure that effective social dialogue can take place and contribute to building coordinated policy responses to address the current crisis and recovery.

ACTRAV stands ready to support workers’ organizations in their efforts to contributing effectively to the formulation and coherent implementation of social protection policies that are universal, comprehensive, adequate and sustainable.