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U.N. Report Highlights Gaps In Global Social Security Programs, Including Health Care

“Though basic social security is critical for mitigating the dire consequences of economic crises, it remains out of reach for most people across the world, above all in poorer countries,” according to a report  (.pdf) released by the U.N. International Labour Organization (ILO) on Tuesday, IDN-InDepthNews reports. The report documents “gaps in access to social security programmes in vital areas such as health care, pensions, social assistance, and unemployment benefits,” according to the news service (Johnson, 11/16).

The report “is the first in a new series of biennial reports that aim to map social security coverage globally,” according to an ILO summary, which described it as “a comprehensive look at how countries are investing in social security, how they are financing it, and how effective their approaches are” (11/16).

On the topic of health care, the report states: “Although a larger percentage of the world’s population has access to health care services than to various cash benefits, nearly one-third has no access to any health facilities or services at all. For many more, necessary expenditure on health care may cause financial catastrophe for their household, because they have no adequate social health protection which would cover or refund such expenditure” (ILO, 11/16).

“According to the report, social security plays an important role in times of economic crisis, including the current one, as an ‘irreplaceable economic, social and political stabilizer’ that provides income replacement and helps stabilize aggregate demand, without negatively effecting economic growth,” U.N. News Centre writes (11/16). “The current [economic] crisis has highlighted the importance of having a minimum set of social security benefits for all in place,” ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said, according to Vanguard (Ahiuma-Young, 11/16).

The report concludes, “[T]o prepare global society for future economic downturns and to achieve other global objectives such as the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable economic development and a fair globalization, a fundamental task is to develop comprehensive social security systems in countries where only rudimentary systems exist so far, starting with the provision of basic income security and affordable access to essential health care” (ILO, 11/16).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.