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 (October-December 2019, Volume 72, Issue 4)

Francisco Colín

The old-age pension law in Mexico: The promise of poverty in old age?

In 1997, Mexico replaced its main old-age pension system with an individual capitalization system. In 2021, the first people subject to the new system will retire. Using a model that projects demographic and labour variables and using Monte Carlo simulations, the findings of this study show that in 2051 the percentage of men not having a pension will increase from 38 per cent to 59 per cent, and that of women from 44 per cent to 66 per cent. The replacement rate for the average Mexican worker will fall from 70 per cent to 30 per cent. The numbers of people in extreme poverty will increase by almost 2.8 million, representing 9.44 per cent of the population. Alternative scenarios are proposed that involve increasing the contribution rate and raising the retirement age.

Konstantinos Kougias

Youth-oriented active labour market policies and economic crisis: Explaining policy effort in Greece and Portugal

The starting point of this study is the implementation of seemingly similar youth-oriented labour market policies in Greece and Portugal. Both countries have suffered high youth unemployment rates and have been pressured to restructure their labour market as part of the rescue programmes adopted during the European sovereign debt crisis. Despite convergence in terms of policy trajectories, there is a significant divergence in employment outcomes. In Portugal, youth-oriented policies were better-targeted and structured. Their implementation has been more effective and has involved the social partners from the outset of the crisis. In Greece, policy design failures, administrative weaknesses and unfavourable macroeconomic conditions have limited the dynamics of youth-oriented policies thus increasing youth insecurity. Τhis antithesis suggests that convergence in policy content can be compatible with divergence in terms of outcomes.

Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona

Biometric technology and beneficiary rights in social protection programmes

Over the past decade, the use of biometric technology in the identification and authentication of beneficiaries of social protection programmes has increased. However, there has been little debate among governments, donors and civil society organizations on the potential implications of this technology in relation to the inclusion of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, as well as for security and the protection of privacy and personal data. This article aims to fill that gap. First, the article reviews how biometric technology is used in various social protection programmes around the world. Then, it examines the potential risks and challenges of deploying biometric technology in social protection programmes. Finally, it assesses the requirements necessary to ensure that biometric technology is implemented in compliance with international law standards. The focus is on developing countries, where the use of biometric technology in identification systems has increased considerably in recent years. Among the key conclusions of the article is that the adoption of biometric technology, often encouraged by donors, needs to be preceded by democratic debate where all alternatives are discussed. The adoption of this technology should be accompanied by a context-specific assessment of risks, and the adoption of an appropriate legal and institutional framework to protect rights and ensure that the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the population are not excluded.

Ianina Rossi, Victoria Tenenbaum and Martín Lavalleja

Extending access to contributory pensions: The case of Uruguay

Since the 1980s, many Latin American countries have tightened access to contributory pensions, with financial sustainability being a main concern. Studies suggest that a sizable share of contributors would not be able to comply with stricter access conditions, since observed contribution densities were low. While most Latin American countries lack complete work history records, the observed density of contributions offered strong evidence of short contribution histories, in particular for low-income workers and women. In the last decade these facts drove a new wave of reforms, in the form of less demanding eligibility requirements to access pensions and the need for a gender perspective. Uruguay took part in both processes, increasing vesting period conditions in 1996, then lowering them and granting childcare credits in 2008. In this article, we analyse the effects that less strict eligibility requirements would have on pension entitlements in Uruguay, estimating complete contribution histories using administrative records. Work history records have been kept since April 1996 only, meaning there are still no complete work histories. The study finds that pension rights would increase, in particular for women. The main effect would be driven by the lower contribution requirement. In addition, childcare credits would further reduce the gender gap in terms of access to benefits. The case of Uruguay is relevant in the regional context, as most Latin American countries are ageing rapidly and can learn from the Uruguayan experience, a country with vital statistics closer to those of developed countries. Also, recent reforms in the region show shared concerns on pension rights and the gender gap.

David M. Dror

Microinsurance: A short history

Twenty years ago, the International Social Security Review published an article that introduced a new term to the vocabulary of development and social protection: Microinsurance. Now, twenty years later, it is suitable to take stock of the contribution of microinsurance towards promoting coverage and social security. The article reviews the main insights gained from 20 years of implementation, including a clear expression of the value proposition of health microinsurance, understanding the demand for microinsurance, the business process for successful implementation, and conditions that must be satisfied for scaling and sustainable operations. It also explains the context that led to a considerable divergence in the microinsurance space. The article offers a discussion of unresolved issues and thoughts about the future of microinsurance. The conclusion of this article is that microinsurance can flourish when the necessary four pillars for its implementation exist, namely mainstreaming through political support, enhanced insurance literacy of the customers, technical assistance to self-administer the schemes, and availability of seed capital. The sufficient additional condition is that customers perceive microinsurance as offering welfare gains that cannot be obtained by other means.

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Belgium wins social security award for Europe

(Baku, Azerbaijan) The public social security institutions of Belgium have been awarded the ISSA Good Practice Award for Europe for digitizing and automating their services.

The Auxiliary Unemployment Benefits Funds (CAPAC) of Belgium received the award on behalf of the public social security institutions of Belgium at the ISSA Regional Social Security Forum for Europe in Baku, Azerbaijan. The International Social Security Association (ISSA) organizes the regional forum and competition every three years. An international jury selected the Belgian entry from among 76 good practices submitted by 25 social security institutions from 20 European countries.

“Making use of technology to improve the efficiency and service delivery is key to the strengthening of social security. Belgium has led the way in digitalization and automation and its institutions have truly merited the ISSA Good Practice Award for Europe”, said Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano, Secretary General of the ISSA.

Success through digitization and automation

Celebrating 75 years of social security in Belgium in 2019, the country’s social security institutions built on decades of experience as they embarked on an extensive modernization process to prepare for the future.

“Thanks to a joint effort by many organisations, a maximum number of social benefits are now automatically granted, without citizens or their employers having to make declarations anymore. The digitalization and automation of social security services in Belgium is a win-win for social security institutions, employers and citizens. Receiving the ISSA Good Practice Award for Europe is a great recognition of this important work”, said Jean-Marc Vandenbergh, Director General of the Auxiliary Unemployment Benefits Funds.

Some 3,000 actors in the Belgian social sector were involved in this major re-engineering project to ensure that a maximum number of social benefits and subsidiary rights are granted automatically. In total, 800 paper forms have been replaced by 220 electronic processes, and more than a billion paper-based exchanges have been replaced by electronic messages. The administrative burden for citizens, companies, and institutions has been drastically reduced, and the new system is expected to save employers EUR 1 billion annually.

Belgium will host the ISSA World Social Security Forum in Brussels from 14–18 October 2019, as part of its national celebration of 75 years of social security.

Special Mention given to good practices from 11 countries

The international Jury also awarded Certificates of Merit with a Special Mention from the Jury to 17 good practices from 12 institutions in 11 European countries:

Austria: Federation of Austrian Social Insurance Institutions

  • Prevention and rehabilitation of occupational skin diseases – BK 19

Azerbaijan: State Social Protection Fund under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Population of the Republic of Azerbaijan

  • Unified subsystem for electronic application and assignment of targeted state social aid

Belgium: National Employment Office

  • 100 per cent digital customer service for career break programmes
  • Development of a diversity code and creation of the “respect tool”
  • The New Way of Working at ONEM

Finland: Social Insurance Institution

  • The Kela Tips: An innovative communication concept for the social media era

France: National Family Allowances Fund

  • Coverage extension: The fight against non-take-up of benefits

Germany: German Federal Pension Insurance

  • Medically and Professionally-Oriented Rehabilitation (MPOR)

Germany: German Social Accident Insurance

  • “Die Goldene Hand”: Prevention prize of the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the trade and logistics industry (BGHW)

Ireland: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

  • Customer satisfaction surveys: Listening to the voice of the customer
  • Treatment benefit reform and transformation to digital delivery

Malta: Ministry for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity

  • Making work pay

Poland: Social Insurance Institution

  • Implementation of only-electronic medical certificates of incapacity for work
  • Implementation of the Retirement Counsellor Service
  • Mystery Shopping research in the area of customer service

Sweden: Swedish Pensions Agency

  • A guide for those left behind

Turkey: Social Security Institution

  • Registration by SMS of employees who work less than ten days in home services


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