People and technology sustain business and services. As new information and communication technologies were acquired, social security institutions in the Americas woke early to the efficiencies of blending human skills and digital technologies.
Italy was one of the countries most affected by COVID-19 during the first semester 2020. In addition to a generalized lockdown starting on 10 March, wide-reaching social security measures to mitigate the health, social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis were implemented. Two early decrees in March and April (“Cure Italy Decree” and “Liquidity Decree”) containing emergency response measures were followed by legislation (“Relaunch Decree”) adopted in May to support the recovery.
Society faces the challenge of achieving international commitments on sustainable development, universal social protection and universal health coverage through ambitious social security programmes based, inter alia, on the contribution of the mutual benefit model, recognition of its potential and the enhancement of its added value.
Partial unemployment schemes, sometimes called short-term work schemes, are one of the key mechanisms to reduce both the degree of sudden economic downturns and their labour market and social impacts. As reported by the ISSA in March, these schemes, which allow employers to flexibly reduce working hours of their employees while the income loss of employees is covered through unemployment insurance, were extended or newly implemented at a massive scale shortly after the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In many cases, they were considered an essential measure to cushion the economic shock resulting from lockdown restrictions.
To mitigate the social impact of the COVID-19 crisis, a significant number of countries have introduced temporary cash transfers to population groups in, or at risk of, poverty. These payments have responded to the specific needs of these vulnerable groups who are immediately affected by a reduction in their job opportunities or income. In addition to supporting low-income families, children, informal economy workers or older persons with low or no pension income, a number of cash transfer programmes have also aimed at maintaining domestic consumption.
North African countries reacted quite swiftly to the spread of the coronavirus. They declared national states of emergency, imposed widespread lockdowns and closed their borders from the very first cases of infection. Systems for testing and systematically monitoring confirmed cases were also put in place. In addition, health facilities and hospitals were bolstered and remodelled with a view to improving the care of COVID-19 patients. All of this has led to convincing results in terms of controlling the spread of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a heavy toll on migrant workers around the globe, who are particularly vulnerable in terms of social protection coverage, and assistance is required from origin, transit and destination countries. While the specific type of support is linked to various factors, most migrant workers, regardless of their type of migration or legal status, need access to some sort of safety net to reduce the impact of the crisis. A number of governments and social security institutions have made efforts to include migrant workers in social protection responses to the crisis. A new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA) outlines such approaches.
Malta implemented early measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and flatten the curve. Preparedness, physical isolation and quarantine, alongside a comprehensive programme of testing and contact tracing, allowed Malta to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
In addition to these public health measures, Malta implemented a series of social security measures to deal with the economic and social impact, to keep the economy afloat, safeguard jobs and assist workers and vulnerable persons.
Social security measures have played a key role to mitigate the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 in France. A comprehensive package of social security responses was launched when health emergency was declared on 16 March.
A series of substantial measures have been taken in the Argentine Republic in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Of particular note among these are the financial bolstering of social security benefits, the strengthening of institutions’ digital customer-service channels and the launch of measures to support and maintain formal employment. The country’s National Social Security Administration (Administración Nacional de la Seguridad Social – ANSES), Federal Administration of Public Resources (Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos – AFIP), Secretariat for Social Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Social), National Social Services Institute for Retirees and Pensioners (Instituto Nacional de Servicios Sociales para Jubilados y Pensionados – PAMI) and Superintendency of Occupational Risks (Superintendencia de Riesgos del Trabajo – SRT) play a key role in this scheme.