Over half of the global population lacks any form of social protection, a report released on September 1 by the International Labour Organization (ILO) found. This is the case even after the unprecedented expansion of social protections that took place following the global outbreak of COVID-19. The “World Social Protection Report 2021” assesses recent developments in social protection systems worldwide. Social protection coverage still varies significantly by country and region, the latest research found.
In 2020, just 47 per cent of the world population had effective access to at least one social protection benefit, the ILO found. The remaining 53 per cent — up to 4.1 billion people — had no protection at all. Social protection includes access to health care and income security, for example in cases of unemployment, inability to work, old age and for families with children.
People in Europe and Central Asia are among the best covered, with 84 per cent of their populations having access to at least one benefit. In the Americas, the rate is 64.3 per cent. In Asia and the Pacific as well as the Arab States, just under half of people are covered while in Africa, only 17.4 per cent have access to at least one benefit.
Most children around the globe had no social protection, the ILO found. Only one in four children worldwide receive a social protection benefit and only 45 per cent of women with newborns get a cash maternity benefit. Just one in three people with severe disabilities can access disability benefits and only one in five people around the globe are covered if they lose their job. Three-quarters of people over retirement age have access to some sort of pension, however coverage varies sharply between regions, rural and urban areas and men and women.
The report also examined the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on social protection: The additional spending that would now be required to ensure minimum social protection for all, known as the financing gap, has gone up approximately 30 per cent since the start of the pandemic, the report found.
Low-income countries would require an additional $77.9 billion (€66 billion) per year to guarantee at least basic social protection coverage, equivalent to 16 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Lower-middle-income countries would need an additional $362.9 billion per year and upper-middle-income countries would need an additional $750.8 billion per year
On average, countries around the globe spend approximately 13 per cent of GDP on social protection (health care excluded). But spending can vary significantly between nations. High-income countries spend on average 16.4 per cent of GDP on social protection while low-income countries spend only 1.1 per cent.