The achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000 – such as poverty reduction, gender, education and maternal and reproductive health – has been hindered by disappointment in addressing social exclusion and inequalities in the developing countries. The MDGs will be replaced this year still by a new global framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development.
It is increasingly evident that economic inequality leads to unequal social outcomes, while current redistribution mechanisms are insufficient to counter this trend. Moreover, inequality is structural and strongly associated with the exclusion of clearly defined groups – the poor, women, minorities (ethnic, linguistic, religious, migrant or sexual), indigenous peoples, people in rural or remote areas or with disabilities.
Globally, over 900 million people belong to groups that experience discrimination or disadvantages, as a result of their identity.
Social protection plays a crucial role in underpinning inclusive and sustainable development. Effective social protection systems are the basis for enabling the poor to participate in economic growth. They also provide coping mechanisms against adverse shocks such as periodic food price rises or recurring natural disasters.
Only about 20 % of the world’s working-age population has access to comprehensive social protection and, on average, developing countries spend around a quarter of the money devoted to social protection in the advanced economies. The economies of developing countries are often characterised by high levels of informality, a low income tax base, and relatively low budget allocations for social protection as well as highly segmented social insurance systems that generally benefit only a small minority in the formal sector.
In 2012, the European Commission adopted a Communication explaining the role of EU development cooperation in supporting the strengthening of social protection policies and systems in the developing countries. That same year, a Social Protection Floors initiative was adopted in the framework of the International Labour Organisation (see also Social Agenda n°30). They comprise a basic set of social guarantees for all and the gradual implementation of higher standards as an integrated set of social policies – designed to guarantee income security and access to essential social services for all, paying particular attention to vulnerable groups and protecting and empowering people across the life cycle.
Source: European Commission – Social Agenda No 42 – pages 7-8.