After over a year since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to address existing and new social security coverage gaps due to extensive labour market disruptions continue to be at the forefront of governments’ agendas to minimize the negative impact of the crisis and protect people’s livelihoods.
Healthcare policies aim to ensure universal coverage for all citizens. Even in countries where the total number of doctors is higher than ever, ensuring access to adequate medical services for all is a challenge. In particular in rural and remote areas “medical deserts” occur. This is a term used to describe regions where the population has inadequate access to healthcare. The situation persists despite the rollout of incentives and measures implemented in underserved regions.
Health systems across the world are under severe pressure to contain and mitigate the infection rate of COVID-19. The pandemic is revealing serious vulnerabilities and gaps in the health systems of many countries. These are impacting the capacities to control the pandemic, stabilize health conditions and restore economic activity. The need for strategies and solutions to support social security institutions in facing these challenges is fundamental to ensure the right to health for all.
The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted world economies and social security systems for over a year now. This article focuses on measures taken to secure the livelihoods of those whose employment relationship was cut.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of safety, health and well-being, and the role that social security institutions play to support their beneficiaries in navigating through the pandemic. By promoting a prevention culture, governments, workers, employers and social security institutions contribute to building a safer, healthier and more productive working environment. A healthy workforce also contributes to the sustainability of social security systems.
Error, Evasion and Fraud in Social Security Systems
Contribution Collection and Compliance
Information and Communication Technology
Social security evasion and fraud issues have high social and economic cost, create imbalances in social security accounts and ultimately lead to economic distortions that are not favourable to the functioning and competitiveness of the national economy. They also have a political impact because they undermine the reputation of the institutions that administer the social security programmes. It is estimated that evasion and fraud cause a 3 to 5 per cent income shortfall in social security systems and amount to up to 2 per cent of the gross domestic product of OECD countries (RAND Europe, 2014). These figures are likely to be higher in countries with less formal economies.
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.
No one could have imagined nor anticipated the global disruptions that happened in 2020. For many social security institutions, the severe health risks and safety protocols of the pandemic required a seismic shift of operations to digital technologies. In one fell swoop, teleworking, online platforms and mobile apps replaced the face-to-face, paper-based transactions of social security. The blending of human insight with digital technologies is the ace in the sleeve of every chief executive officer (CEO). Through an astute blending of human-and-digital solutions, social security continues to deliver on its mandate by ably navigating the first and succeeding waves of the pandemic.
The closure of childcare centres and schools resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown measures has imposed a heavy strain on families, both on the children and their parents, and especially the mothers. The pandemic exposed yet again the preponderance of women in childcare and housework, raising once more the serious challenges of gender equality, women’s rights to social security as well as their financial security and overall well-being (Doucet, Mathieu and McKay 2020, p. 277).
Social protection systems have been one of the most effective instruments to mitigate the social, economic and health impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Governments worldwide moved swiftly to extend and adapt existing schemes and create new benefits to protect employment, prevent poverty and facilitate health-related restrictions. Social security institutions innovated to respond rapidly to the demands from governments and the public, and delivered existing and new benefits in an unprecedented and difficult context.