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More than half of people in Asia still lack social protection: ILO

In the Asia-Pacific region, 55.9 per cent of the population still does not have access to forms of social protection, according

By Ground report
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In the Asia-Pacific region, 55.9 per cent of the population still does not have access to forms of social protection, according to a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) released on Tuesday 30.

People in Asia lack social protection

Panudda Boonpala, regional director of the ILO, stated that “this region is at a crossroads. It faces challenges in terms of the adequacy of benefits and the sustainability of the system, along with low public spending and the persistence of atypical forms of work”.

Spending on social protection in that region where more than half of the world's population lives has been, on average, 7.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the last two years, and half of its fifty countries spend 2.6% or even less, while the world average is 12.9%.

Only 44.1% of the population in Asia and the Pacific have access to at least one social protection benefit, putting the region at a distance from Europe and Central Asia (83.9%) and the Americas (64.3 %), although in a better situation than the Arab States (40%) and Africa (17.4%).

There are very marked specific deficiencies since for example only 45.9% of new mothers receive paid maternity leave and only 14% of unemployed workers receive unemployment benefits.

There are also strong differences between subregions, with access being high in the Pacific Islands (77.3% of the population) and East Asia (72.3%), and low in South-East Asia (33.2%) and South (22.8% of the population).

Contributory social protection schemes are often limited to those working in the formal sector, while non-contributory schemes target a small group of the poorest in society.

significant coverage gaps

This means that a large and important group of workers is left unprotected, and that “lost zone” includes many women, migrant workers, the self-employed, workers in micro and small businesses, domestic workers, home-based workers, and other workers who help families.

The region is home to 1.3 billion informal workers, who represent 68% of the total workforce, and most of them work in conditions with no or very limited access to social services.

Gender inequality remains a central feature of labour markets, with women paid less than men and spending more time on unpaid care work.

In addition to significant coverage gaps, a second problem is that the coverage that does exist is often too low to provide adequate protection, due to the relatively low level of funding and investment in social protection schemes.

Boonpala also said that “the covid-19 crisis has made it clear that, for most countries in the region, an urgent paradigm shift is necessary. The need for social protection has never been so evident.”

"Social protection in the region must respond not only to the pandemic but to other important trends, such as population ageing, migration, urbanization, technological progress, catastrophes and climate change," said Nuno Meira Simoes Cunha, ILO social protection specialist.

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