Social security institutions are an important face of government, particularly when disasters strike. As the turmoil and the global loss of lives and livelihoods caused by the coronavirus continue to rise, social security administrators are standing ground and keeping the promise: to deliver benefits and services in good times and in bad.
In Spain, the government introduced a significant number of social security measures to mitigate the health, social and economic impact of COVID-19. The National Social Security Institute (INSS) and the General Treasury of Social Security (TGSS) have played a key role in implementing these measures.
The current COVID-19 crisis has disrupted customer services in social security institutions worldwide. Institutions had to rapidly adapt their service delivery approaches to ensure the continuity of social security services while reducing personal interactions to a minimum. Furthermore, in the context of the crisis, institutions had to respond to an increased demand for short-term benefits as well as to implement a number of new social security measures.
In the People’s Republic of China, social security measures were an important component of the government’s emergency response in the context of COVID-19. The combination of adaptations to social security contributions and benefits with adjustments to operational processes and service delivery approaches enabled the social security system to contribute effectively to mitigating the economic and social impact of the crisis. The experience of China confirms the key role of administrative capacity and institutional adaptability in crisis management and emergency responses.
The self-employed are a key pillar of economic activity in many countries. While often belonging to lower income groups, their social security protection is usually significantly less comprehensive than the one provided to employees. Due to the coronavirus crisis, many governments have taken unprecedented steps to expand social security coverage for the self-employed.
Worldwide almost 2.4 million people die due to an occupational disease, compared to 0.38 million that die because of a work accident. Insurance covering occupational diseases is an important pillar of social security and a safety net to all workers who may be exposed to chemical, physical or biological agents arising from work activities, or may suffer from respiratory and skin diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders or occupational cancer.
As part of emergency measures to support companies in the context of the dramatically decreasing economic activity due to the coronavirus, many governments and social security institutions have temporarily postponed or reduced social security contribution obligations. The major objective of such measures is to reduce the immediate economic burden for employers, support companies to withstand the crisis and thereby secure employment levels. They therefore complement partial unemployment and other benefit schemes designed to support employers and workers.
Cash sickness benefit schemes have historically been among the first social security measures put in place. As the coronavirus crisis unfolds, such schemes are receiving renewed attention, and governments are expanding them significantly.
In view of the large reduction in economic activity and disruptions in supply chains in the context of the coronavirus crisis, a number of governments have taken urgent measures to introduce or significantly extend partial unemployment and short-term work schemes.