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ILO: Social protection programs must be universalized in Latin America

In order to prevent the collateral damage caused by COVID-19 from being amplified in Latin America, the International Labor Organization (ILO) He urged regional governments on Wednesday to expand the coverage of their social protection programs.

It is worth emphasizing that the pandemic brought unemployment, increased poverty ratios, loss of adequate employment and reduced income, among others, for which monetary transfer programs (bonds) and subsidies were applied to encourage employment in order to boost economic reactivation, after a year in which the GDP in Latin America contracted by as much as -6.7%, according to the World Bank.

Along these lines, the ILO detailed that before the health emergency, only 56% of Latin Americans were covered by some type of social protection; while the contributory systems, which depend on the contributions of workers and employers, included only 46% of the employed.

“The vast majority of the employed population did not have unemployment insurance or other ways of compensating income, especially those who were in the informal sector (…) This is a lesson learned from this pandemic: the lack of social protection makes us more vulnerable ”, argued the ILO director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Vinicius Pinheiro.

Setback in contributory pension systems

According to the recent Panorama of social protection in Latin America and the Caribbean: Advances and setbacks in the face of the ILO pandemic, contributory social protection systems registered a 7.9% drop in the number of contributors, which was worth a decline of almost a decade.

Therefore, they raise the need to move towards “comprehensive protection systems, based on a social protection floor with guarantees for universal access to health and economic security throughout the life cycle.”

Pinheiro notes that social protection is essential for social inclusion and cohesion, the reduction of poverty and social inequalities, while facilitating productive transformation and improving productivity.

“It is essential to adapt and expand social protection. Social benefits have been the first line of defense for those who lost their income and at the same time constitute an important engine to stimulate economic activity ”, explains Pinheiro.

Finally, it emerged that the region weighs “a pending challenge” with respect to older adults, considering that 30% of those over 65 in Latin America and the Caribbean do not receive any type of labor income or a pension.

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