Background Social protection systems

Protection against individual and collective risks

Social protection as a human right Internal link

Social protection is a human right (Article 22 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Social protection is also enshrined in many international agreements, and in the 2030 Agenda.

Social protection includes all forms of social insurance, as well as contribution-free cash or in-kind support, that safeguard people against poverty and individual risks and situations that they may face during their lifetime (e.g. illness, unemployment, inability to work, child poverty, maternity leave or drawing a pension).

Social protection systems are one of the most successful ways of fighting poverty and hunger. Existing social security nets are estimated to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide by around one third. Stable social protection systems make countries less vulnerable to violence, unrest and war.

Adaptable social protection systems can also offer security against collective risks such as natural and climate-related disasters, pandemics and economic crises, which affect large swathes of the population. They help people weather these crises and create resilient societies.

Promoting social and economic development

Social protection systems strengthen social justice and equal participation, and foster social cohesion. They improve access to education and healthcare for girls and can boost women’s self- and co-determination within both their families and society as a whole.

Social protection enables macro-economic growth. Every investment in social protection programmes generates additional economic activity, particularly in local economies.

When disasters occur, the whole of a society suffers if there is no social protection in place: poverty increases, existing inequalities are exacerbated, there is less resilience against future crises and more need for humanitarian aid.

For the world’s poorest countries, social protection is currently hard to finance. They would need to invest an additional 78 billion US dollars a year to provide a basic level of security – and they cannot raise this sum alone.

As at: 08/10/2023