Ensuring adequate social security coverage for an ageing population is an important priority for governments and the global membership of the International Social Security Association (ISSA). Social pensions, also known as zero pillar or non-contributory pensions, complement contributory social insurance systems by providing a guaranteed source of income for people not adequately protected by other forms of social security. In doing so, they expand overall social protection and can be a powerful tool for combating old-age poverty, promoting social inclusion, and mitigating the impacts of labour market inequalities.
The extension of social security coverage is a key topic for the International Social Security Association (ISSA) and its members. It is one of the main ISSA topical priorities for the 2023–2025 triennium, with particular emphasis given to innovations and strategies to extend contributory social security schemes to the self-employed, workers in the informal sector, migrant workers and other difficult-to-cover groups.
Non-contributory pensions, also known as social pensions, are an important component of rights-based universal social protection systems. They allow extending pension coverage relatively rapidly to elderly persons who are not covered by contributory schemes. Usually financed by general revenues and providing relatively modest benefits, eligibility for social pensions is often conditional on low income or certain other criteria.
Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing gaps in social security coverage. The crisis' impact is particularly severe in low- and middle-income countries where many workers, especially those in the informal sector, have no access to any form of social protection. The crisis prompted governments to establish new social security benefits on an emergency basis for uncovered groups and to take rapid measures to expand existing social security schemes for those covered populations perceived as particularly vulnerable.