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: January-Mars 2019, Volume 72, Issue 4)
Has the redistributive effect of social transfers and taxes changed over time across countries?
In most Member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD), the income gap between rich and poor has widened over the past decades. This article analyses whether and to what extent income taxes and social transfers have contributed to this trend. Has the redistributive impact of different social programmes changed over time? We use microdata from the LIS Cross National Data Center in Luxembourg for the period 1982–2014 and study both the total population and the working-age population. In contrast to the results of some other studies, especially by the OECD, we do not find that redistribution has declined. Tax-benefit systems around 2013 are more effective at reducing income inequality compared to the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s, especially among the total population. Changes in social programmes are not a driver of greater income inequality across the countries included in this study.
The effects on intra-generational inequality of introducing a funded pension scheme: A microsimulation analysis for Estonia
This article uses a single male cohort microsimulation model to analyse the intra-generational and distributional effects of a shift in Estonia from a defined benefit pay-as-you-go (PAYG) pension system to a multi-pillared system with a PAYG scheme with contribution-based insurance components and a funded pension scheme. We contribute to the literature on microsimulation by showing how introducing contribution-based insurance components and compulsory defined contribution (DC) schemes can increase pension inequality. Our results show that in the case of a high level of inequality in labour earnings and high long-term unemployment rates, such as in Estonia, the introduction of a very strong link between contributions and future benefits leads to considerably higher inequality in pension incomes as measured by the Gini coefficient. Simulation results for Estonia suggest that inequality in old-age pension incomes more than doubles when the reforms mature. In contrast, the inequality in replacement rates decreases.
Access to social protection among people with disabilities: Evidence from Viet Nam
Although people with disabilities are frequently targeted as key beneficiaries of social protection, little is known on their access to existing programmes. This study uses mixed methods to explore participation in disability-targeted and non-targeted social protection programmes in Viet Nam, particularly in the district of Cam Le. In this district, social assistance and health insurance coverage among people with disabilities was 53 per cent and 96 per cent respectively. However, few accessed employment-linked social insurance and other disability-targeted benefits (e.g. vocational training, transportation discounts). Factors affecting access included the accessibility of the application process, disability assessment procedures, awareness and the perceived utility of programmes, and attitudes on disability and social protection.
The impact of international migration on the public pension system: The case of Portugal
This article analyses the impact of replacement migration on the financial sustainability of the old-age pension system in Portugal, a country with one of the largest ageing populations in Europe. We do this using demographic forecasts and prospective exercises for the evolution of the Portuguese economy. During the 2015–2060 period, our results evidence the positive impacts of international migration on old-age pension system financial balances, reaching over 3 per cent of GDP after 2045. Moreover, even when taking into considering the low dynamics for the Portuguese economy, replacement migration is an important input to improve pension system financial sustainability.
Inequity in access to the Argentinian pension system (1994-2017)
Pension coverage in Argentina is inequitably distributed between different income levels, both during working years and during retirement. The objective of the article is to study the evolution of inequity of access to the Argentinian pension system in terms of its association with the socio-economic status of individuals during the period 1994–2017. An evaluation is offered of how variables such as sex, age, and educational attainment influence such inequity. It is concluded that, although the level of average coverage increased, inequity of access increased significantly in the years following the 1994 reform, both among the active and the inactive population. However, inequity of access among active persons did not improve substantially with the return to the pay-as-you-go pension system, while it was considerably reduced among the inactive population. While the former are found to be affected to a greater extent in terms of coverage as a result of the pro-educated bias among the active population, the latter outcome is thought to be a direct result of the transitory plans for pension inclusion, after which inequity was to resume its upward course.
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.