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Why a Social Protection Floor?

Updated by Lou Tessier , Clara van Panhuys on 10.06.2015

Investing in a Social Protection Floor is investing in social justice and economic development. Social protection schemes are important tools to reduce poverty and inequality. They do not only help to prevent individuals and their families from falling or remaining in poverty, they also contribute to economic growth by raising labour productivity and enhancing social stability. The global financial and economic crisis proved how key a role social protection plays as an automatic economic stabilizer.

What is a social protection floor?

Social protection floors are nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees that should ensure, as a minimum that, over the life cycle, all in need have access to essential health care and to basic income security which together secure effective access to goods and services defined as necessary at the national level.

Social security is a human right as well as a social and economic necessity.

Regardless, around 40% of the world’s population are under the international poverty line of 2 US dollars a day which suggests that they do not have access to a social protection floor.

Concerned about these facts, the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), supported by its High level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) adopted the Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPF-I), as one of its nine joint crisis initiatives to cope with the effects of the economic crisis.

The SPF concept has become widely recognized and accepted at various international, regional and national conferences over the course of 2009 and 2010 including the G20 and Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summits (see international endorsement)

Social security represents an investment in a country’s “human infrastructure” no less important than investments in its physical infrastructure.

For example: child benefits facilitate access to education which, in turn, help break the intergenerational poverty cycle; access to health care helps families remain above the poverty line by relieving them of the financial burden of medical care; and income support avoids poverty and creates the security the people need in order to take risks and invest in their own productive capacity.♦


Main Resources

The global financial crisis and its impact on the work of the UN system
UN CEB, 2009



Social security for social justice and a fair globalization
ILO, 2011