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Social Protection Floor (SPF)

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Social protection floor (SPF) is a concept defined by International Labour Organisation in the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202). 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.

Thus, SPF essentially means the basic minimum level of social protection a country should guarantee to its citizens.

Social protection broadly refers to the action programs of government intended to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and to promote health and wellbeing for the population at large and potentially vulnerable segments such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed. It is an important tool to prevent and reduce poverty, inequality, to promote equal opportunity and gender equality, and to support the transition from informal to formal employment. Social protection may be considered as an investment in people that empowers them to adjust to changes in the economy and in the labour market.

SPF emphasizes the need to implement comprehensive, coherent and coordinated social protection and employment policies to guarantee services and social transfers across the life cycle, paying particular attention to the vulnerable groups.


Social Protection Vs. Social Security
Social protection is a broader concept as compared to social security. Social security measures are one of the ways and means to ensure social protection for all. Social security involves access to health care and income security, particularly in cases of old age, unemployment, sickness, invalidity, work injury, maternity or loss of a main income earner.

Alternatively one can say, the Social Protection Floor approach promotes access to essential social security transfers and social services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, food, housing, life and asset-savings information.


Background of SPF
Statistics at International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows[1] that only 20 per cent of the world's population has adequate social security coverage and more than half lack any coverage at all. Social Protection is one of the four strategic objectives of the Decent Work agenda that define the core work of the ILO. Since its creation in 1919, the International Labour Organization has been actively engaged in promoting social security and social protection for fair and inclusive globalization.

The ILO has set out three main objectives reflecting the three major dimensions of social protection:

  1. Extending the coverage and effectiveness of social security schemes
  2. Promoting labour protection, which comprises decent conditions of work, including wages, working time and occupational safety and health etc.
  3. Working through dedicated programmes and activities to protect such vulnerable groups as migrant workers and their families and workers in the informal economy. Moreover, full potential will be used to respond to the AIDS pandemic, focusing on enhancing tripartite constituents' capacity

A "Global Campaign on Social Security and Coverage for All" launched by ILO in 2003 builds on efforts already underway in more than 30 countries. These include projects to help countries extend coverage at the national level and to strengthen community-based social security organizations.

ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization adopted in 2008 recognizes that “the commitments and efforts of Members and the Organization to implement the ILO’s constitutional mandate, including through international labour standards, and to place full and productive employment and decent work at the centre of economic and social policies, should be based on developing and enhancing measures of social protection which are sustainable and adapted to national circumstances, including the extension of social security to all”.

Recognizing the importance of ensuring social protection for all, the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (UNSCEB) adopted, in April 2009, the Social Protection Floor Initiative, as one of the nine UN joint initiatives to cope with the effects of the economic crisis. This initiative is co-led by the International Labour Office and the World Health Organization and involves a group of 17 collaborating agencies, including United Nations agencies and international financial institutions.

The International Labour Conference (ILC) at its 101st Session held in Geneva in June, 2012 adopted the Social Protection Floors Recommendation (R-202)..This was supported by India also. ILO adopts any instrument (convention, Recommendation, protocol) only when it get 2/3rd of total member vote after first or second round of discussion.The Social Protection Floors Recommendation 2012 (R-202) provides that ILO member states shall establish and maintain social protection floors as a fundamental element of their national social security systems. For the purpose of the Recommendation, Social Protection Floors are nationally defined set of basic social security guarantees which secure protection aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion.


Components of Social Protection Floors
Social protection floors are nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees which secure protection aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion. A social protection floor could consist of two main elements.

At country level it might also require development or amendment of the legislative system to uphold and protect the rights of those likely to be affected, based on key human rights principles such as non-discrimination, gender equity and people's participation.


Important Strategy and targets for Social Protection Floors

As per the SPF Recommendation (No. 202) of ILO, the National Social Protection Floors should comprise of at least the following basic social security guarantees.

  1. Health and maternity care.
  2. Income security for children.
  3. Basic income security for adults in cases of sickness, unemployment, maternity and disability.
  4. Income security for older persons.

The Recommendation also provides that members should formulate and implement national social security extension strategies based on national consultations through effective social dialogue and social participation. This exercise should include prioritization of social security benefits and providing higher levels of social security to as many people as possible in due course. The Recommendation calls for regular monitoring of the implementation of social protection floors.


Challenges in having a globally uniform Social Protection Floor and India’s approach
There are several challenges in framing a uniform social security floor prescribed for all countries for the following reasons.

In the Indian context, Social Security is a comprehensive approach designed to prevent deprivation, give assurance to the individual of a basic minimum income for himself and his dependents and to protect the individual from any uncertainties. The State bears the primary responsibility for developing appropriate systems for providing protection and assistance to its workforce. While certain schemes are based on contribution of the beneficiary, certain others are funded/subsidized by the Union or State Governments.

Government of India has extended its overall support to the instrument in its present form keeping in view the long term interests of workers all over the world. At the same time it has been emphasized that each country should have its own Social Protection Floor on the basis of existing socio-economic conditions, national priorities and keeping in view the availability of resources. There should be no globally uniform Social Protection Floor for all. Faced with the challenge of a vast population with limited resources and infrastructures, India’s approach has been anchored on gradual and progressive extension of social security coverage to all rather in one single go.


Social Protection measures in India:-

Govt. of India is committed to protect and safeguard the interests of workers and in upholding the dignity of labour. Financial inclusion and social security cover for everyone is the top priority for the government especially for the vulnerable class of workers. Union budget 2015-16 of Govt. of India announced "Universal Social Security Coverage to all" as a testimony to her commitment to Social protection. Direct Benefit Transfer has been launched in a big way to transfer subsidies under various schemes to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries. At present it is operational in 121 districts. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) has now become the biggest financial inclusion initiative in the world. Under this, 17.08 crore accounts have been opened as on 22 July 2015 and the beneficiaries will get an accidental insurance coverage.

Government of India has established social security systems both for the organised and unorganised workforce. So far as the organised sector workers are concerned the principal social security laws enacted in India are the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948, the Employees Provident Funds & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, the Employees Compensation Act, 1923, the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 and the Payment of Gratuity Act. 1972. These legislations provide social security benefits like medical facilities, employment injury/ maternity benefits, insurance, pension and gratuity etc. to industrial and factory workers. Employee State Insurance Scheme is a labour welfare scheme for providing social security benefits including reasonable health-care. It is now going to cover the Construction site Workers thereby enabling them to avail benefits of complete medical care. Under the Rajiv Gandhi Shramik Kalyan Yojana, a worker insured under the Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 is entitled to claim unemployment allowance on account of closure of factory/ establishment, retrenchment or permanent invalidity. For the organized sector, portability of provident fund benefits in a hassle free manner has been assured for more than 50 million workers through allotment of Universal Account Number.

In India 92.37% of the labour force[2] is in the unorganized sector. A number of schemes and programmes are in operation to provide social security benefits to these workers. The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 is an umbrella act to address the welfare aspects of unorgainsed sector. Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana provides for life and disability cover to all the rural landless households in the country. Under the National Old Age Pension Scheme, persons who are living Below Poverty Line and are above the age of 65 are provided pension. Legislations have been enacted by Government for setting up 5 Labour Welfare Funds to provide social security, medical care and other facilities to workers employed in beedi (locally made cigarettes) industry, certain non-coal mines and cine workers. The Building and Construction Workers Act, 1996 takes care of the regulation of employment and conditions of service and various safety, health and welfare measures for the construction workers who are mainly in the informal sector. The Government has started the co-contributory Pension Scheme – Swavalamban from September 2010 where an unorganized sector employee contributing between Rs 1000 and Rs 12,000 per annum for retirement savings is eligible to receive a matching contribution of Rs 1000 per annum from the Government.

The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a cashless smartcard based health insurance scheme has been introduced to guarantee health cover to all Below Poverty Line workers in the unorganized sector. RSBY scheme has been revamped to improve its operational efficiency and to ensure maximum outreach. RSBY is implemented in 28 states and as on 31.03.2014, around 3.85 crore smart cards have been issued. RSBY has also been extended to building and other construction workers, street vendors, beedi workers, domestic workers, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) beneficiaries who have worked for more than 15 days in a year.

In 2015, India has launched Atal Pension Yojana to provide fixed pension at the age of 60 depending upon their contributions and year of joining. The targeted beneficiaries are from the unorganized sector. Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana provides life insurance coverage of Rs 200,000 for people in the age group of 18 to 50 with annual premium of Rs 330 and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana provides Rs 200,000 accidental death insurance for people in the age group of 18 to 70 years with mere Rs. 12 per annum.Ministry of Labour and Employment has initiated a process of providing an umbrella card to the unorganized sector workers. This move will bring social security coverage for 1 billion people. Govt is also working on to issue unorganised sector Identity Number (UIN) which will facilitate the benefits of various social security measures on a single platform to the beneficiary.

India being a founding member of the ILO is always conscious of its global responsibilities and has accordingly created a framework for a gradual and progressive extension of social security net to all including deprived and vulnerable sections of society.

1. Source: http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/decent-work-agenda/social-protection/lang--en/index.htm

2. National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS).

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