International Social Security Review International Social Security Review

First published in 1948, the International Social Security Review is the principal international quarterly publication in the field of social security.

Articles by leading social security experts present international comparisons and in-depth discussions of topical questions and studies of social security systems in different countries.

ISSA member organizations can freely access the complete current issue of the Review in English and previous issues in the electronic archive (since 1967 for articles published in English; for 2007-2013 for articles published in French, German and Spanish) via My ISSA.

Commencing in 2014, the International Social Security Review is published in English only, and abstracts of all new articles are available in eight languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

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With the creation of an online publications platform by the international publishing house Wiley, online access to articles published in the International Social Security Review  since 1967 is available to subscribers.

Consult a free sample issue of the International Social Security Review online, or visit Wiley Online Library to browse contents and abstracts of all issues. For further information on how to access the articles please visit Wiley's Librarian Site.

Abstracts (current issue: October-December 2017, Volume 70, Issue 4)


Katja Hujo, Christina Behrendt and Roddy McKinnon

Introduction: Reflecting on the human right to social security

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 asserts that social security is an inalienable human right. Realizing this human right is often considered, simply, as a matter of political will and of administrative aptitude. In these terms, the progressive realization of the human right to social security may be viewed as the outcome of an appropriately-resourced political and bureaucratic process. Such a perspective, however, is clearly inadequate. Characteristically, bureaucracies are designed to cater to the needs of all, based on common procedures and common deliverables designed for the “typical” case. Yet such approaches often lack the necessary flexibility and resources to make a distinction between individuals, which acknowledge their respective differences and needs. To meet the international commitment to progressively realize universal social security coverage, social security administrations are key actors. However imperative this role may be, if the pursuit of this commitment fails to respect people’s differences this will put at risk the meeting in full of what is envisioned by the human right to social security. To this end, this special issue aims to foster an understanding that the goal of universal coverage must necessarily also respect and respond to the individual needs of each and every person.

Laura Alfers, Francie Lund and Rachel Moussié

Approaches to social protection for informal workers: Aligning productivist and human rights-based approaches

There has been increasing recognition of the growth of informal employment in the global South and North. Most informal work is precarious and low paid, with workers having little or no access to social protection. It is sometimes suggested that an approach that moves away from productivism – the idea of work as a pathway to access social protection – and towards a universal human rights-based approach is important. However, this article argues that a large and growing informal economy does not provide justification for abandoning certain key productivist ideas. Key ideas that should not be abandoned include the focus that this approach has on establishing a link between workers and capital and the importance of social services within a social protection discourse that is presently dominated by cash grants. Also important, productivist ideas emphasize the economic contributions of informal workers as a means by which to complement a human rights-based argument for the extension of workplace protection to all workers, regardless of employment status. Overall, the hard binary that is sometimes drawn between human rights-based approaches and productivist (or “instrumentalist”) arguments may not always be as definitively delineated as some might suggest.

Catalina Devandas Aguilar

Social protection and persons with disabilities

Social protection is an essential condition for social and economic development for all, but particularly for those who experience poverty and social exclusion. Social protection programmes can play a crucial role in alleviating and preventing poverty and vulnerability to secure people’s well-being. They can also enhance the productivity, employability and economic development of people by creating better income-earning opportunities for them. Moreover, social protection can foster social inclusion and participation by ensuring effective access to food, health care, education and support services. Thus, well-designed social protection programmes have the potential to directly improve the enjoyment of rights of persons with disabilities. Regrettably, traditional disability-welfare approaches have promoted the opposite, building and spreading charity and medical perspectives in social protection responses. As a result, for too long, many national social protection systems resulted in furthering paternalism, dependence, segregation and institutionalization of persons with disabilities, limiting their opportunities to live independently in their communities. The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities challenges these views, promoting social protection systems that are inclusive of persons with disabilities and which facilitate active citizenship, social inclusion and community participation. The Convention calls on States parties to ensure that persons with disabilities receive equal access to mainstream social protection programmes and services as well as access to specific programmes and services for disability-related needs and expenses such as support services. Against this background, this article aims to discuss why and how States and other stakeholders should ensure the establishment of disability-inclusive social protection systems, in conformity with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Valeria Esquivel

The rights-based approach to care policies: Latin American experience

Care policies are high on the public policy agenda in Latin America. This is partly explained by the region’s structural conditions, typical of middle-income countries, such as increasing life expectancy and women’s relatively high participation in the labour market, but also by the politicization of care, derived from the recognition that the unequal distribution of care provision is a powerful driver of gender and income inequalities. Women’s movements have positioned care policies high on their own agendas and, with varying degrees, States have progressed in the implementation of care policies, supported by a strong gender-equality agenda which is framed within a rights-based approach to social protection. This article presents the Uruguayan and Costa Rican “care systems” as examples of Latin America’s rights-based approach to care policies. It succinctly explains their political and institutional evolution, and presents the main features of their legal frameworks. It pays particular attention to the actors that have mobilized to support and, eventually, shape them. It also identifies the dimensions that are singled out by other countries in the process of replicating and adapting these examples to build their own “care systems” following a rights-based approach to care policies. The article closes with a focus on implementation challenges.

Gabriele Koehler

The politics of rights-based, transformative social policy in South and Southeast Asia

A key normative principle of transformative social policy is that it is rights-based. This implies that it be universal, as a right extended categorically to all persons in a defined situation, or to all citizens, or, in its most radical form, as applicable to all residents regardless of citizenship status. To be transformative, social policy also needs to tackle the root causes of inequalities and social injustices. In the recent past, approaches emerged in a number of countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia that pointed in the direction of universal, rights-based social policy. These suggest that a “social turn” took place – a shift to ideas and policies that prioritize social issues. In the cases under review (India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand), the trends towards a universal, rights-based approach to social services and social transfers were in each case politically driven and a result of changes in government – the social turns were the outcome of contestation. At present, these countries are experiencing political backlashes, with democratic processes and civil society under severe attack. This article seeks to make two points. First, a rights-based, transformative policy approach and a social turn do not come automatically: it is always the result of contestation, be it from the electorate and their interests groups, or from competition between political parties. Second, acquired rights and moves towards transformation can be dismantled. In the current global political rollback, there is a need to defend and fight for transformative and rights-based social policy.

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona

Ensuring inclusion and combatting discrimination in social protection programmes: The role of human rights standards

Recent years have witnessed the significant expansion of social protection programmes around the world. Yet, a vast number of poor and vulnerable people, including children, women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities, remain uncovered, especially in lower-income countries. This article argues that a better understanding of the principle of equality and non-discrimination, as defined under international human rights law, can guide practitioners and policy-makers to design and implement more inclusive social protection systems. Compliance with this principle is also necessary under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the International Labour Organization’s social security standards. The article first analyses the scope and content of the legal principle of equality and non-discrimination, giving attention to the standards commonly used to assess compliance with it. It then applies these standards as analytical tools to assess how and when discrimination may occur in the implementation of non-contributory social protection programmes. Finally, it explores the challenges that social protection practitioners face when applying the principle of equality and non-discrimination in social protection programmes.

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