Global Labour News

ILO seeks businesses’ support for extension of social protection initiatives

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has urged businesses to help make universal social protection a reality across the world.

Speaking during the fourth annual meeting of the ILO Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Director General of the global labour watch body, Guy Ryder observed that while there certainly has been a marked improvement in coverage over the past few decades, more than half of the world’s population that lives without protection against life’s risks.

Ryder asked what are the costs of not investing in social protection or as a former President of the United States once said, what are the costs of comfortable inaction?

He stressed that the Global Business Network for Social Protection Floors has over the time of its existence has become a living network where the private sector can come together to discuss, to share, and to advocate for the extension of social protection for all – and in so doing make a very important contribution to the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

He noted that the ILO’s latest World Social Protection Report brings into stark relief what the human cost is.

The report also means that six in 10 mothers would continue to have no maternity protection and also that three in 10 older persons will have no access to pensions or retirement and also means that another four out of every 10 persons would have to continue living without any access to health services.

He submitted that the human costs are very clear.

He went further to ask what are the costs to enterprises and the people who work in enterprises.

Ryder then noted that it seems that without investment in national social protection systems and additional corporate social protection guarantees, workers’ wellbeing will suffer and this in turn will have negative effects on productivity.

“And what if we look at the cost beyond any one enterprise? Throughout the supply chain, many workers are living in countries that have less than adequate national social protection systems, thus receiving little to no coverage. Not taking action on guaranteeing a basic social protection floor for all workers can indeed open companies up to at least two types of risks – the risk of lower efficiency and the reputational risk – that can potentially jeopardise all the positive work companies have been doing for so long to improve workers’ conditions along global supply chains,” he explained.

The ILO Chief opined that to a large extent, lack of social protection systems translates also into missed opportunities for businesses. He argued that countries without social protection often experience greater poverty and inequalities, saying, “domestic demand is stifled, and then so is productivity and economic growth. But on the other hand the examples of many countries, such as China, show that investing in social protection can contribute to the development of a domestic demand for goods and services with all the knock-on effects that implies.”

He hinted that that since its establishment almost 100 years ago, the ILO, together with its constituents and many development partners, has been continuously investing in social protection. Ryder maintained that through setting international standards, and helping governments to build adequate social protection systems, the ILO has always seen social protection not as a cost to be borne, but as a sound investment in people, in economies, and in societies.

According to him, well-run social protection systems and floors reduce the consequences of life cycle risks on people, minimize negative impacts throughout the value chain, and create a business environment that is easier and better to operate within.

He informed the gathering that the ILO’s Global Flagship Programme on Building Social Protection Floors for All is about helping governments build national social protection systems and floors, bringing coverage to tens of million. He noted that the 2030 Agenda has opened the door to new partners to participate in this endeavour, because it explicitly recognizes the crucial role of non-governmental actors for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The ILO DG submitted that businesses are in a position to champion the right to social protection in communities worldwide.

By popularizing the cause amongst your stakeholders, he stated that businesses can help shift public opinion towards action.

He stressed the centenary celebration of the ILO to next year present a unique opportunity for the global businesses to communicate on how they are supporting the social protection agenda, and promoting decent work.

  1. Ryder stated that the ILO would equally encourage and support governments to adopt good social security legislation, implement social protection systems and floors, and make universal social protection a reality for all.

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