The International Social Security Association (ISSA) contributed to the BRICS Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting in Durban, South Africa on 28–29 September 2023. The Ministers have made social protection one of their four priority topics.
The Labour and Employment Ministers from the five BRICS countries – Brazil, China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa – met in-person for the first time after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with the International Labour Organization, ISSA contributed to the discussions on how to expand social protection coverage and strengthen institutional capacity and implementation in the BRICS countries.
“Despite significant progress in coverage extension in recent years, the right to social security remains a dream for over half of the global population, who lacks any form of social protection”, ISSA Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano reminded the Ministers. At the same time, he highlighted recent achievements in the BRICS cooperation regarding social security.
The ministers set four priority areas for their cooperation. First, building sustainable enterprises, innovation and enhancing productivity. Second, promoting labour rights at work and reducing decent work deficits. Third, ensuring universal access to social protection and basic income security. And fourth, promoting decent work and closing the skills gap in the informal economy. A Ministerial BRICS Declaration was issued with a commitment to close coverage and adequacy gaps, and to make further progress towards universal social protection for all by 2030.
ISSA and ILO made a joint presentation on this topic of ensuring universal access to social protection. The two organizations highlighted the importance of guaranteeing access to health care and at least a basic income security for all, to ensure adequate social protection for workers in all types of employment, and building institutional capacities for efficient access, quality service delivery, good governance and public trust.
Institutional capacities have become key assets and conditions for reaching social protection objectives. In this area, the focus is on customer-centric service delivery, digitalization, solid governance, institutional resilience and continuity of services in case of crisis. Key conditions include appropriate investment in technological capacities, staff skills and training and institutional leadership. These issues were also discussed in a meeting of the BRICS Research Institutes Network, to which the ISSA contributed as well.
BRICS Ministers expressed their gratitude to ISSA and ILO for their important support. This builds on a long-standing cooperation, whereby the two organizations provide knowledge input to BRICS Labour and Employment Ministers’ and Working Group meetings and host a Virtual Liaison Office under the BRICS Social Security Cooperation Framework. Recently, BRICS membership was extended to Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from 1 January 2024.