Social Protection Lacking in Asia, Pacific Regions; ILO 

ILO Calls For Urgent Need to Revitalise Trade Unions

In a major revelation, the International Labour Organization(ILO)  said that Fewer than half the population of Asia and the Pacific have access to any social protection benefits and public spending on social protection in the region is significantly below the global average.

In their latest report – The World Social Protection Report 2020–22: Regional companion report for Asia and the Pacific–, the ILO said that spending on social protection in the region has averaged 7.5 per cent of GDP over the past two years, with half of countries spending 2.6 per cent or less. This is significantly below the global average of 12.9 per cent, it added.

The report also found that only 44.1 per cent of the region’s population have access to at least one social protection benefit. It further mentioned that only 45.9 per cent of new mothers received paid maternity leave and only 14 per cent of unemployed workers received unemployment benefits.


Contributory protection schemes are typically limited to those working in the formal sector, while non‑contributory schemes usually target a small group of the poorest in a society. “This means that a large and important group of workers is left unprotected. This so-called “missing middle” includes many women, migrant workers, the self-employed, workers in micro and small enterprises, domestic workers, home-based workers and contributing family workers,” The ILO said.

“A second problem is that what coverage there is is often too low to provide adequate protection, because of the relatively low level of funding and investment in social protection schemes,” the organisation said.


The report calls for countries in the region to choose between different development paths. One is the “high-road’’ approach, with a significant new role for social protection, aiming to be more inclusive and leaving no one behind, while supporting greater growth, driven by domestic demand, and contributing to further development of human capabilities. The other option is to focus on fiscal consolidation and pursue a “low-road” approach that keeps countries trapped in a “low cost – low human development” growth pattern.


Deputy Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific Panudda Boonpal; “This region stands at a crossroads. It faces challenges in terms of adequacy of benefits and system sustainability coupled with low public expenditure and the persistence of non-standard forms of work.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has made clear that, for most countries in the region, an urgent paradigm shift is required. The need for social protection has never been so evident”.

Senior Technical Specialist, ILO Nuno Meira Simoes da Cunha: “Social protection in the region needs to respond not only to the COVID-19 pandemic, but to other major trends, including population ageing, migration, urbanization, technological progress, disasters and climate change.”

The ILO said that social protection plays a key role in achieving sustainable development, promoting social justice and realizing the human right to social security for all. Thus, social protection policies are vital elements of national development strategies to reduce poverty and vulnerability across the life cycle and support inclusive and sustainable growth by raising household incomes, fostering productivity and human development, boosting domestic demand, facilitating structural transformation of the economy and promoting decent work.


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