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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Abstracts (current issue: April-June 2019, Volume 72, Issue 2)
Second‐pillar pensions in Central and Eastern Europe: Payment constraints and exit options
During 1998–2007, a majority of Central and Eastern European (CEE) governments enacted laws obligating workers to save for retirement in privately managed individual accounts. The governments funded these accounts with a portion of public pension revenues, thus creating or increasing deficits in public systems. After the onset of the global financial and economic crisis (2008), most CEE governments reduced these funding diversions and scaled back the accounts. Now, a decade after the crisis, this article examines the benefits that the accounts are beginning to pay retiring workers. In general, these benefits are shown to be disadvantageous compared with public pensions. Some pay lump sums in lieu of regular monthly benefits, most fail to adjust pensions regularly for inflation, and some pay women less than men with equal account balances. In several countries, pensioners with individual accounts receive lower benefits than those without them. To enable retiring workers to avoid these disadvantages, several CEE governments have allowed them to refund their account balances and receive full public pensions. Yet while this strategy diffuses worker dissatisfaction, it also places strains on public pension finance. To assist second‐pillar account holders without weakening public pensions, governments should consider making private pension savings voluntary and financing these schemes independently of public pensions – i.e. by worker and employer contributions and, possibly, direct state support.
Effective retirement age from employment and full‐time employment, and the impact of the 2008 crisis
Estimates of effective retirement age based on labour force participation rates are commonly used for actuarial experience review and policy development. However, the transition from work to retirement and the socio-economic environment have evolved over the years, influenced by a growing role for gradual retirement and the labour market impact of the 2008 economic crisis. Rather than focusing exclusively on retirement ages based on labour force participation rates, this article presents complementary estimates of retirement ages to better assess the effective retirement age from employment. It also introduces the concept of retirement from full-time employment, showing that the retirement age from full-time employment is systematically lower than the retirement age from employment. The results reveal that the trend towards an increase in the retirement age has been impacted by economic conditions when considering the effective employment of older workers. Results are presented for different Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development over the period 2005–2015.
How fair are unemployment benefits? The experience of East Asia
Despite an increasing emphasis on active labour market measures, unemployment benefits still remain a focal point of employment protection. This article takes the cases of four East Asian economies – China, Japan, Republic of Korea, Taiwan (China) –, which are often characterized as having welfare states with a strong developmental and productivist orientation, to investigate whether, as is sometimes argued, unemployment benefits are restrictive and exclusionary. In doing so, it examines the logic behind the design of unemployment benefits and argues that they are in fact progressive in design and fair when they pay out. Nonetheless, low effective coverage and low benefit rates weaken their redistribution and compensation objectives.
Employer-oriented labour market policies in Sweden: Creating jobs and the division of labour in the public sector
In many European countries, greater importance is accorded to labour market policies in which employers are involved in activating unemployed people. Such employer-oriented policies target employers’ demand for labour and attempt to influence their willingness to hire, train or guide (often disadvantaged) unemployed groups. Using data from a qualitative interview study of an employer-oriented programme in a medium-size city in Sweden, the present article aims to develop knowledge about how these policies are used to influence employers to hire unemployed workers and how jobs created in this context differ from regular jobs. The article argues that creating jobs through new arrangements for the division of labour, with the promise of relieving regular staff of unskilled tasks, may influence employers’ willingness to hire the unemployed when used alongside other kinds of policy instruments. However, the article also shows that this new division of labour, with programme participants performing mainly unskilled tasks, has been difficult to realize, as new staff gradually come to perform an increasing number of regular working tasks.
Social health protection in Cambodia: Challenges of policy design and implementation
The Government of Cambodia is implementing ambitious reform initiatives to improve the country’s social health protection system. In January 2018, it was announced that the Health Equity Fund (HEF), which is fully subsidized by a joint government-donor initiative for the reimbursement of user fees for the poor at public health facilities, is to be expanded to some segments of informal workers belonging to associations, as well as to commune and village chiefs. Since 2017, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) has provided social health insurance for formal economy workers in enterprises with eight employees or more. In January 2018, it was expanded to civil servants and all employees regardless of the size of the enterprise. However, this article highlights that the new ambitious reforms are not accompanied by careful planning as regards funding, service delivery, human resources and institutional design. This article therefore aims to examine key policy issues and challenges for Cambodia’s ambitious reform of its social health protection system in terms of resource generation, population coverage, strategic purchasing and governance.
Persons with disabilities and access to social security
The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 asserts that social security is an inalienable human right. As the international community celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, it is important to highlight the goal to realize equal access to the right to social security protection for persons with disabilities.
It is accepted that there is a close association between persons with disabilities and the risk of poverty. Persons with disabilities are also likely to have less access to labour markets and to well-paying jobs. Physical and attitudinal barriers in civil society also heighten the exclusion of persons with disabilities.
“Social security systems play a critical role in assisting people with disabilities, not only providing access to benefits and services but also access to jobs. To respond to the needs of individuals, social security administrations need to develop appropriate disability management capacities and return-to-work programmes”, says Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the ISSA.
Writing in the International Social Security Review (Vol. 70, No. 4), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, states that the common experience of social and economic exclusion by persons with disabilities is heightened by the inequalities this diverse group face in gaining access to systems of social security protection.
A challenge to overcome can be the inappropriate administrative design of these systems, also to facilitate access to and return to work.
Realizing equality in access to the human right to social security is often considered a procedural matter – a question of political will and of administrative capacity and competence. From this perspective, coverage extension depends simply on an appropriately-resourced political and bureaucratic process.
More often than not, conventional bureaucracies were designed to cater to the needs of all, based on common procedures and common deliverables designed for the “typical” case. Such bureaucracies came to be expected to function best when offering, what might be called, one-size-fits-all solutions.
On the flip side, such bureaucratic approaches were not necessarily designed to offer flexibility or to have the resources available to make distinctions between the different needs of individuals.
In the pursuit of equality in access to the right to social security for all, especially for people with disabilities, this observation merits reflection.
Innovation and a tailored approaches
The adoption in 2006 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) is viewed as turning point in coordinated international efforts to render social protection more inclusive, with Article 28 asserting that social protection be tailored to the needs of people with disabilities.
It is at the national level, not least in places of work, where practical and coordinated measures to support people with disabilities are most required. In the workplace, the ISSA Guidelines on Return to Work and Reintegration and the report on the Return on Work Reintegration show that investments in rehabilitation measures are beneficial for employers, social security schemes and society.
Generally, it is time to question the conventional bureaucratic design and delivery of social security protection. In practical terms, what is required is innovation to develop phased, measurable and time-bound responses. In this regard, the ISSA’s Good Practices in Social Security database can support social security agencies. As can the fundamental objectives set out in the ISSA Guidelines on Service Quality.
Two key points for the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda emerge from this. In the search for appropriate innovative responses, the immediate challenge is not simply to achieve universal coverage. Also necessary is equality of access to coverage that ensures that such coverage is tailored to the needs of each person. Such tailored coverage should offer not only protection, but prevention and, consistent with Article 26 of the UNCRPD, habilitation and rehabilitation measures.
The role of institutions
The implications for social security institutions are clear. On the one hand, universal access to social security protection must mean providing benefit levels and services that are consistent with the person’s needs, including disability-related needs and expenses – persons with disabilities are confronted with daily expenditures that persons without disabilities are not. On the other hand, the services provided by, as well as the physical infrastructure, of social security systems must be accessible to all. The envisioned goal is to appropriately support people with disabilities to attain physical, mental, social and vocational ability, and to permit inclusion and participation.
Realizing equality in access to permit universal coverage thus requires the mobilization of important resources to address poorly-defined or unmet needs and to remove unnecessary physical, economic and social barriers. In this way, higher public expectations as regards social security provisions, as identified in the ISSA report, Ten global challenges for social security, can be better satisfied.
Urban planning, transportation and labour market policies are part of a necessarily coordinated national response. As are state-of-the-art information and communications technologies that offer the promise of the improved administration and delivery of social security benefits and services in a cost-effective manner. An entrenched social hurdle to overcome may relate to the negative attitudes towards and stigmatization of persons with disabilities in society.
As the international community marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, there is a pressing need to foster an understanding that the goal of equality in access to social security, to realize universal coverage as a human right, must necessarily also respect and respond to the individual needs of each and every person, including persons with disabilities, across the life course. In pursuit of this important objective, the ISSA recently signed a cooperation agreement with the global organization and network Rehabilitation International (RI).
Devandas Aguilar, C. 2017. “Social protection and persons with disabilities”, in International Social Security Review, Vol. 70, No. 4.