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: April-June 2019, Volume 72, Issue 2)

Elaine Fultz, Kenichi Hirose

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.

Denis Latulippe and Florence Fontaine

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.

Gyu-Jin Hwang

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.

Daniel Castillo

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.

Soonman Kwon and Lundy Keo

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.

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Spotlight on Children’s Social Protection

The 20 November is an important date for all children. On this date in 1959, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. On the same date in 1989, the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is wholly fitting that it is now established as Universal Children’s Day.

In social security debates, the rights to social security of children are addressed often only in relation to their status as a dependant person vis-à-vis a covered parent or guardian. This is because of a common tendency to focus more readily on the rights of people of working age, or indeed of those who are no longer able to work. With greater policy attention now being given to the specific needs of children, this outlook is changing.

“On this Universal Children’s Day, we want to put the spotlight on the need to strengthen social protection for children, our future”, said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Secretary General of the International Social Security Association.

Current data suggest that the social protection coverage of children worldwide is low and highly uneven. The ILO report that almost two-thirds of children (1.3 billion) are not covered by any form of social protection.1 Global figures produced by the World Bank and UNICEF indicate that 385 million children live in extreme poverty, and 45 per cent of all children live below the $3.10 moderate poverty line.2

We know that such exposure to poverty has negative short-term effects on the development of children (on mortality, nutrition, health, education) and longer-term consequences on their longevity and quality of life as adults.

Cash transfers can be a solution

To achieve universal social protection and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG 1.3), there is growing interest among governments worldwide in the potential of cash transfers to make a significant difference in the lives of children, especially when combined with quality social services.

It is against this background that an international conference on Universal Child Grants (UCGs) convened by UNICEF, the International Labour Organization and the Overseas Development Institute, will be held from 6–8 February 2019, at the International Labour Office in Geneva.

An important aim of the conference is to foster informed policy debate and decision-making with regards to cash transfers, social protection, targeting versus universalism, conditionality, policy financing and the objectives of reducing child poverty and improving wider outcomes for girls and boys.

Critical consideration will be given to the implementation of different types of cash transfers, their links to wider social policy (including in-kind transfers, universal education and health services, and tax policy), and implications for UCGs.

One important focus will be the identification of methods to ensure quality service delivery. For the ISSA, the importance of service quality in the delivery of social security protection is paramount, as underlined by recent work reported in its ground breaking publication Ten global challenges for social security.

An aim is for key research findings from the conference to be selected for publication in 2019 in a themed issue of the International Social Security Review.


1 ILO. 2017. World social protection report 2017-2019: Universal social protection to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Geneva.
2 World Bank; UNICEF. 2016. Ending extreme poverty: A focus on children. Washington, DC.