Social Protection

Rethinking social protection in a changing Arab world

Experts meet to discuss ways to review and enhance social protection in Arab countries as well as examine successful international social protection experiences.

News | 13 May 2014
AMMAN (ILO News) -- A three-day seminar has brought together key players to discuss ways of improving social protection in the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of expanding coverage to all.

Organized by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Regional Office for Arab States, in collaboration with the Jordanian Ministry of Labour and the Social Security Corporation, under the patronage of the Jordanian Prime Minister His Excellency Abdullah Ensour, the event includes government officials, employers’ and workers’ representatives, experts, civil society activists and academics from around the world.

‘’The seminar should focus on the social protection indictors related to geographic areas, youth and the uncovered segments of the population, in order to bridge the gaps,’’ said His Excellency Nidal Katamine, Minister of Labour and Minister of Tourism and Antiquities in Amman on Tuesday (May 13), at the opening ceremony.

Seminar participants are sharing experiences of implementing successful social protection policies and practices, while also examining some of the major challenges, which impede the extension of social protection in Arab countries.

Established in 2009 by the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, the Social Protection Floor (SPF) is a nationally-defined set of basic social security guarantees which secure protection and are aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. These guarantees should ensure at a minimum that, over the life cycle, all in need have access to essential health care and basic income security.

‘’There are no panacea solutions to establish comprehensive social security protection. Each country has different social needs, development objectives and fiscal capacities to achieve them and will adopt a different set of policies to suit their particular social and economic context and challenges,’’ said ILO Regional Director for the Arab States, Nada al-Nashif. ‘’What is clear is that we can no longer rely on old models to address long-standing problems. We must adapt our systems into a new development model grounded in social justice by expanding integrated and sustainable social protection.’’

The meeting is being held as part of efforts by the ILO to promote economic growth with more equity and move towards inclusive social protection policies, which will foster social justice in Arab States.

‘’Inequalities in the region are staggering. In light of the Arab Spring, it is time for the region to rethink a new social contract focused on employment-generating growth and social protection for all.’’ said Isabel Ortiz, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department.

Experiences from countries such as India, Mexico, South Africa and Thailand, which are represented in the meeting, demonstrate that social security schemes, which aim at building a Social Protection Floor have reduced poverty and contributed to enhancing income security, education and health outcomes. These schemes have also cut down on the incidence of child labour and encouraged engagement in productive activities.

While many Arab countries have set up well-structured pension schemes and related institutions in recent decades, few have developed a coherent national social security policy encompassing the various components of social protection. This includes unemployment and maternity insurance schemes as well as non-contributory transfers and services which follow a rights-based approach. Effective social security coverage in the region remains low since most insurance systems cater only for public and private sector workers with regular contracts.

‘’In Jordan, we are proud of having a social security scheme operating since 35 years, with a tripartite representation at its board of directors,’’ said Her Excellency Nadia Rawabdeh, Director General, Social Security Corporation. ‘’Socio-economic stability and the creation of job opportunities lead to achievements of national development goals, creating stability and security among members of society, especially in time of crisis.’’

The ILO has supported several Arab countries in extending the range, level and coverage of social protection for all. The objective of this meeting is to derive an advocacy and action agenda, at regional and country levels, for the establishment of national social protection floors.

A special session under the Ministry of Labour on labour market and livelihood challenges in light of the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan will also be held.