Pandemic has prompted us to realise the importance and necessity of universal social protection

Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director, ILO-India, provided opening address at the ILO-IHD Virtual Consultative Workshop on “New Social Security Code and Strengthening Social Protection System in India with Particular Reference to Western India”

Statement | New Delhi, India | 25 October 2021
Namaskar and good morning!

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to make opening remarks at this event, focusing on the social security and strengthening the social protection systems in India with reference to Western India. ILO and IHD have jointly organized regional and state level workshops this year to open tripartite dialogue on social protection after the adoption of new Social Security Code in 2020.

We are still living in the times of COVID-19, even though the enormity of the situation may be less visible as compared to the past months. COVID struck at a time when only 47% of the world population had access to some elements of social protection. If we focus on health protection, only two-third of the global population are protected by any kind of health protection schemes, which means still 2.7 billion people are uncovered.

The socio-economic recovery from the pandemic remains a priority. The ILO’s Global Call to Action adopted by the constituents during the International Labour Conference earlier this year, highlighted the urgency for a human-centered recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting universal social protection. The Global Call to Action reiterated the need to adapt to the developments in the world of work and set up social protection systems that are resilient, effective, inclusive, adequate and sustainable. Also, the importance of the Global Call to Action has been reaffirmed by the "World Social Protection Report 2020-22: Social protection at the crossroads – in pursuit of a better future" published last month.

In the given context, the efforts of the ILO constituents in India towards prioritising the agenda of social protection, is of utmost significance. One of the ILO’s core mandates is to set the minimum standards on labour issues. There are 16 up-to-date International Labour Standards on social protection. Among them, there are two prominent flagship ILO standards on social security and social protection. These are: Convention No. 102, Social Security (Minimum Standards), adopted in 1952; and Recommendation No. 202, on Social Protection Floors, adopted in 2012. In the process of national consultations on the draft versions of India’s code, the principles of these International Labour Standards have been consistently shared with the Government. ILO will continue to support the Code with the aim that mutual efforts would ultimately lead us to achieve universal social protection in India.

Globally, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges a pivotal role of universal social protection ensuring its coverage, access and quality. It promotes nationally defined social protection floor focusing on four social protection guarantees in the life cycle. With only 9 years remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda for SDG, I sincerely hope that this workshop will give an opportunity to boost state-level consultations on how to prioritize necessary actions to achieve the 2030 Agenda for SDG on universal social protection coverage in India.

In the rapidly changing world of work, complex drivers and labour market trends have been creating both challenges and opportunities for social protection. One of the common challenges on social protection observed in South Asia is a lack of social protection coverage to the so-called “missing-middle”. Most of ‘missing-middle’ are informal workers with extremely limited or no social protection coverage provided. Under the new Social Security Code, the extension of social protection to unorganized workers, gig workers and platform workers through registry system has been included. We need to discuss the implementation through tripartite social dialogue both at central and state levels.

Finally, while the pandemic has prompted us to realise the importance and necessity of universal social protection, I would like to emphasize that it is also important to realise that universal social protection cannot be achieved in one day. There are many social protection schemes that would need to be considered in each state, consulted and prioritized. I sincerely hope that this workshop will provide a platform for leveraging ideas and exchanging the views by state stakeholders on improving social protection systems in India.

Thank you for your kind attention!