There are emerging signs that the global economy is beginning to recover from the COVID‑19 crisis. A wide divergence in the pace of recovery across the world is anticipated. In Asia and the Pacific, the more developed economies are likely to have a faster rebound than those that are less developed. Generally, the poor – and those who fell into poverty because of the crisis – face an uncertain period of hardship.
Social security institutions are an important face of government and serve as important barometers of public opinion for a country’s political leadership. This is one compelling reason that drives administrators to strive for service excellence in the administration of social security programmes.
The region of Asia and the Pacific is home to over 60 per cent of the global population. The COVID‑19 pandemic provoked a crisis that destroyed millions of jobs and livelihoods. Across the region, its impacts and government responses to it have differed widely. While there were 640 million multidimensional poor people in the region in 2019, the pandemic’s socioeconomic impacts may double this figure (ESCAP, ADB and UNDP, 2021). Like in other regions, the pandemc imperils progress towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular by reversing gains in poverty reduction (ILO, 2021a, p. 19).
The COVID-19 pandemic and rapid change of working environments are challenging for social security and for the occupational health and safety community worldwide. The global discussion on how to achieve resilient social security coverage for all and zero injuries, zero diseases and zero deaths at work covers many work-related aspects. This includes the digital transformation of work, the use of new technologies for prevention, social dialogue, mental health protection, and the promotion of a global prevention culture.
In the Americas, as in the rest of the world, social security is a powerful instrument through which the public feels the presence of government. The quality of the social security experience is an important gauge of public satisfaction with government and political leadership; administrators thus have a compelling reason to strive for excellence in the administration of social security programmes.
Extending and maintaining social security coverage stands out as a perennial challenge for social security administrations in the Americas. The rapidly evolving needs of different population groups, especially children, women and the elderly, as well as economic and sociopolitical changes and demographic and technological transitions, have brought about societal transformations with an ever-increasing number of people in need of social security protection.
The COVID-19 crisis has forced countries across the Americas to take unprecedented steps to protect their populations, chiefly in the fields of public health and social security. In particular, States have developed a wide range of policies designed to safeguard their citizens against lost income when lockdown measures have made it impossible for them to carry out their productive economic activities. Such policies are many and varied, primarily comprising employment protection, the mobilization of unemployment benefits and the creation of social programmes to protect those groups hit hardest by the crisis, such as self-employed and informal workers.
The lack of social protection is, in many countries, linked to a lack of information. When they have insufficient awareness of their rights and responsibilities, workers and their families cannot understand the importance or reach of social protection. It is therefore necessary to educate people about social security in order to promote their access to benefits, their autonomy and their empowerment.
African policy-makers and institutions are conscious of the need for the adequate extension of social security coverage on the continent. The adoption of the Recommendation (No. 202) concerning National Floors of Social Protection, 2012, of the International Labour Organization (ILO) has strengthened this determination. Over the past few decades, the scope of legal coverage for social protection has broadened significantly across Africa. However, effective coverage rates remain low, especially among rural and informal labour market workers.