Fostering Inclusion: Strengthening Social Protection and Decent Jobs
05 October 2023
‘Game-Changers’ is a new editorial series from the UN Development Coordination Office (DCO) on key transitions that the UN Secretary-General has called for to advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), catalyzing a more sustainable and equitable future. This series explores the progress achieved since the adoption of the SDGs in 2015 in key areas and how the UN is supporting this progress. The world needs renewed ambition and action to deliver these Goals at scale.
Wage losses, job insecurity, and a rising cost of living crisis have been a common thread in the past few years, across the world, directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, decent jobs that deliver a fair, secure income for all are critical to tackling inequality and poverty. Social protection systems help vulnerable people find such jobs and improve their ability to cope with crises through increased access to education, health, and other social security nets, helping absorb the impacts of shocks without major social or economic setbacks
To prevent a further widening of global inequalities and ensure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can flourish, we need to transition towards economic systems that place universal social protection and job creation at its center.
Where were we in 2015?
In 2015, 6.1 per cent of the global population were unemployed. This number was higher for women, who were overrepresented in vulnerable and informal jobs and more likely to be unpaid caregivers. In most countries, women who were employed in full-time jobs earned between 70 and 90 per cent of what men earned.
1.5 billion people around the world were employed in vulnerable jobs without formal work arrangements.
Last year, more than 2 billion workers globally were employed in the informal sector without social protection coverage, and more than 22 per cent of people over pensionable age worldwide still don’t receive a pension (yet this increases up to 77 per cent of older persons in low-income countries).
How can the jobs and social protection transition make a difference?
Without robust social security nets and fair-paying jobs, economies become more vulnerable to shocks. Extending adequate access to social protection coverage and ensuring decent jobs for a growing population will have a multiplier effect on all SDGs. For this, more public and private investments into national social protection systems around the world are needed.
What is the UN doing about this?
In 2021 the UN Secretary-General launched the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions, to expand social protection to the four billion people and to create at least 400 million decent jobs. At this year’s UN General Assembly, Member States, international financial institutions, and private sector partners scaled up their pledges to the Global Accelerator, but more investment is needed.
From 2020-2022, the Joint SDG’s Fund’s Portfolio on Integrated Social Protection provided critical financing to sustain and expand social protection coverage in 39 countries around the world. Through this joint programming, UN country teams have supported governments, reaching 147 million vulnerable people with access to new or extended social protection benefits. Yet the support doesn’t end here.
UN Resident Coordinators, leading UN teams on the ground, are working hand in hand with their host Governments to mobilise additional financing for social protection systems and advance the implementation of the Global Accelerator.
Spotlight Country: Expanding social protection in Albania
With the active support of the UN Resident Coordinator’s team and UN agencies on the ground, including the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) comprehensive reforms are underway to transform Albania's social protection system. At the regulatory level, the Resident Coordinator Office is connecting decision-makers in Albania to UN-backed studies and specialized technical support from UN entities at global, regional, and country levels. This has informed public policies to extend social protection and create new opportunities, especially for the most marginalized. In this regard, a new Social Inclusion Protection Policy has been developed to address gaps in social services funding, and advancements in disability, childcare system and social housing reform are being made.
To ensure lasting sustainability, the UN team is enhancing institutional capacity through training and guidance, including the inclusion of vulnerable groups like women, refugees, and asylum seekers. A UN joint programme, under Resident Coordinator leadership, is also facilitating improved access to public services for these groups.
Achieving a global jobs and social protection transition won’t happen overnight. But thanks to UN expertise and the RC’s convening power, Albania is taking important strides towards creating a social security net that leaves no one behind.
Learn more about other examples on what the UN is doing to support this transition: