International Women’s Day

Digital inclusion for women in social security

International Women’s Day

Digital inclusion for women in social security

As social security delivery becomes increasingly digitized, ensuring equal access to digital skills and tools is crucial. The United Nations has dedicated this year’s International Women’s Day to the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”, which strongly aligns with priorities and the ongoing work of the International Social Security Association (ISSA).

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 63 per cent of the world’s female population uses the Internet, compared to 69 per cent for men. The digital gender divide is most marked in Africa and in Asia and the Pacific, while access is relatively equally divided in the Americas and Europe. Across regions, the more developed countries are in terms of income, the lesser of a digital gender divide.

Both gender equality and digital inclusion are at the heart of ISSA’s agenda. In 2022, ISSA and the United Nations University, Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance (UNU-EGOV) published the report Digital inclusion: Improving social security service delivery. Based on a survey of social security organizations, it showed that 52 per cent of organizations saw that women face challenges accessing online content and services, compared with only 30 per cent for men. One of the recommendations of the report was to promote digital inclusion, gender inclusion and digital empowerment. The ISSA has also run a digital inclusion webinar series with the same aims.

Award for gender equality in social security

At the World Social Security Forum 2022, Iceland received the ISSA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Social Security for its remarkable results in gender equality in social security and its society.

“In our efforts to achieve social protection for all, we need to bridge both the digital divide and the gender divide in society, and too often these are two sides of the same coin”, said Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano, ISSA Secretary General.

The ISSA Technical Commission on Family Benefits has worked on gender mainstreaming in social security and published a report on the issue in 2022. All the technical commissions are currently developing their workplans for the 2023–2025 triennium, as they gather for the 17th ISSA Forum for Technical Commissions. During the opening session of the Forum, Secretary General Caetano highlighted International Women’s Day and the importance of bringing gender equality into their plans.

María del Carmen Armesto González-Rosón from the National Social Security Institute (Instituto Nacional de la Seguridad Social – INSS) in Spain, who chairs the Technical Commission on Information and Communication Technology, said “while the digital gender divide continues to be of importance, it is encouraging to see that it is disappearing among the youngest age groups. When these reach an advanced age, we may be able to celebrate the end of the digital divide between women and men.”

Isabelle Sancerni from the National Family Allowances Fund (Caisse nationale des allocations familiales – CNAF) in France, and who chairs the Technical Commission on Family Benefits, said “on this 8 March, I feel solidarity with the women who fight for their social rights. In a context of growing digitalisation, digital inclusion represents a fundamental issue to guarantee their effective access to all benefits, in particular those that allow to conciliate family and professional life, as for example maternity leave, parental leave and child care.”

Digital training solutions are also covered in a working paper on long-term care, jointly published by the ISSA and the International Labour Organization in 2022. The paper points to the important gender-dimension in long-term care, as women represent the majority of both users and care providers, and emphasises the need to build rights-based, inclusive and financially and socially sustainable long-term care systems.

This year’s International Women’s Day also puts a spotlight on innovation, which is key to overcoming societal barriers, including barriers to social security, not least when it comes to digital  technology. The newly launched ISSA Collaborative Innovation Hub will seek to develop innovative projects and strengthen the innovation capacity among member institutions. While the projects are still to be defined, the gender dimension is likely to become part of the discussions in many of them.