The International Labour Organisations (ILO) has called on governments, social partners and other stakeholders, to use the COVID-19 crisis as a wake-up call to strengthen social protection in their countries.
Mr Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department, said this on Friday in Abuja.
Razavi said countries with effective health and social protection systems were better prepared to respond to the pandemic.
According to him, an analysis by the organisation shows that countries with effective health and social protection systems in place and provide universal coverage, are better equipped to protect their populations from the threats to their livelihoods posed by COVID-19.
“However, countries that lack a robust health and social protection system will need to develop policies and interventions in an ad hoc way, which is likely to lead to a limited and delayed response.
“The pandemic has exposed serious gaps in social protection systems around the world, particularly for some categories of workers, such as part-time workers, temporary workers and self-employed workers, many of them in the informal economy,” he said in a statement.
Razavi added that the analysis also showed that social protection must be seen as an investment and not as an additional cost, saying, “it plays a vital role as a social buffer and economic stabiliser.”
The ILO director said, in addition to the tragic loss of human life, the pandemic was likely to increase poverty and inequality, with particularly adverse effects for older persons, persons with disabilities, migrant workers and displaced people.
He, however, noted that many countries had implemented national social protection policy responses to the crisis, which had addressed a broad range of areas, such as food items or meals or cash transfers to ensure access to food.
Razavi said, “Between 1 February and 17 April 2020, 108 countries and territories announced at least 548 social protection measures to lessen the devastating impact of lost jobs and livelihoods.
“Around one fifth (19.3 per cent) are related to special social allowances/grants, closely followed by measures relating to unemployment protection (15.7 per cent), health (9.5 per cent) and the allocation of food (9.1 per cent).
“More than two-thirds of countries in Europe and Central Asia have implemented social protection measures in response to the pandemic, more than half of countries in the Americas and almost half of countries in Asia.
“In Africa more than one third of countries have already done so, and about one third of Arab States.”
He stressed that insufficient social and health coverage not only endangers the countries concerned but the entire international community.
Razavi added that in such cases, countries should be offered urgent international support so they can adopt emergency measures to step up the capacities of their health and social protection systems.
He said that should include ensuring access to health care and income support