Panel discussion during family policy seminar in Uruguay
New forms of family structure, increased access to labour markets for women, population ageing and even migration patterns are transforming traditional family units and solidarity systems in all regions, according to Yannick D’Haene, Director of the ISSA’s Social Security Observatory.
These trends will have three major consequences for family polices, Mr. D’Haene told the meeting. “Firstly, increased exclusion, particularly for single-parent families and children; secondly, the need to reconcile family and professional life; and thirdly, the emergence of a “fourth” generation which will be increasingly dependent as a result of increased life expectancy.”
The technical seminar, Family policies in the face of changes in family structures and the evolving socio-economic context , was organized by the ISSA in Piriápolis, Uruguay, 19-20 March 2009 at the invitation of the Social Insurance Bank of Uruguay.
Family polices to overcome poverty
Welcoming the meeting, the President of the Social Insurance Bank, Ernesto Murro Oberlin, reminded participants that the fight against poverty, including child poverty, was the main objective of the UN Millennium Development Goals. “Overcoming poverty must be at the heart of family and employment polices,” Mr. Murro appealed.
The seminar involved over 80 policy experts and administrators from around the world as well as representatives from the International Labour Organization, the Ibero-American Social Security Organization (OISS), and the World Bank. The meeting was addressed by Ms. Marina Arismendi, Minister of Social Protection and Mr. Gorge Bruni, Vice-Minister of Labour and Social Security of Uruguay.
Sociological changes threaten traditional systems
Universal sociological changes, which affect all countries to varying degrees, create new forms of exclusion, the primary victims of which are children. Participants were told. These changes not only have implications for social policy; they also pose a threat to social security systems and their financial sustainability over the long term.
Family benefits exist in only around 80 countries, but there are two major reasons why family policies need to be developed further, according to Mr. Philippe Steck, Director of International Relations of France’s National Family Allowances Fund.
“The first reason stems from the fact that they may be a demographic regulator by enabling women’s joint wish to work and have children. Moreover, this is not limited to developed countries. The second reason is due to family policies’ redistribution efforts in the fight against family and child poverty,” he emphasized.
“Family policy is an investment in the future,” concluded Mr. Steck. “An investment with a near-guaranteed return.”
Participants heard how improving access to employment for women and young people, thereby contributing to a healthy and active labour force, is essential if social security systems are to remain financially viable over the longer term.
“Women’s participation in the labour market is not only a social justice matter, but it also influences economic progress," according to a report by Uruguayan social insurance specialists Silvia Santos and Gabriel Lagomarsino.
“Female labour contribution is fundamental to reduce poverty and to foster development in the country,” they concluded.
Good practices for effective policies
During the seminar, good practice case studies from Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador confirmed that effective family policies must be adapted to the context of each country. Experts concurred that a balance between contributory and non-contributory schemes should avoid the “employment trap”. Non-contributory approaches can be effective to cover the most vulnerable groups in society, but create a risk of encouraging informal labour.
The ISSA Technical Commission on Family Benefits plans to issue a comprehensive report, including an unprecedented survey of family policy programmes around the world, to coincide with the World Social Security Forum in 2010.