Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing gaps in social security coverage. The crisis' impact is particularly severe in low- and middle-income countries where many workers, especially those in the informal sector, have no access to any form of social protection. The crisis prompted governments to establish new social security benefits on an emergency basis for uncovered groups and to take rapid measures to expand existing social security schemes for those covered populations perceived as particularly vulnerable.
In Europe, the second wave of the coronavirus has since September prompted the re-introduction of social distancing measures, restrictions to economic activity, telework, curfews and lockdowns. Without certainty on the duration of the health crisis and its knock-on effects on the economy, governments have been re assessing the status of social security benefits and measures introduced since the onset of the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed work arrangements. Teleworking has been introduced or expanded around the world to reduce the risk of infection at the workplace. This has also affected frontier workers in the European Union (EU). As they normally work in one country and reside in another one, changing the place of work to one’s home can influence which country’s social security legislation is applicable to them.
Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security. However, the realization of the human right to social security remains a declaration of intent rather than an enforceable right for a significant share of the global population.
Building fairer and more inclusive societies requires reversing the root causes of gender inequality. Access to social security is an important step in this regard, as it promotes the economic empowerment of women. Importantly, social security systems must be designed and delivered in a gender-sensitive way.
The emerging use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in social security institutions is enabling more proactive and automated social security services. Nevertheless, the application of AI in social security is also challenging, and institutions are defining how they can concretely take the most advantage of this new technology. This article introduces to AI and describes some application experiences in social security based on discussions held in the ISSA European Network Webinar: Artificial intelligence for social security institutions as well as on other material.
People and technology sustain business and services. As new information and communication technologies were acquired, social security institutions in the Americas woke early to the efficiencies of blending human skills and digital technologies.
Italy was one of the countries most affected by COVID-19 during the first semester 2020. In addition to a generalized lockdown starting on 10 March, wide-reaching social security measures to mitigate the health, social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis were implemented. Two early decrees in March and April (“Cure Italy Decree” and “Liquidity Decree”) containing emergency response measures were followed by legislation (“Relaunch Decree”) adopted in May to support the recovery.
Society faces the challenge of achieving international commitments on sustainable development, universal social protection and universal health coverage through ambitious social security programmes based, inter alia, on the contribution of the mutual benefit model, recognition of its potential and the enhancement of its added value.
Partial unemployment schemes, sometimes called short-term work schemes, are one of the key mechanisms to reduce both the degree of sudden economic downturns and their labour market and social impacts. As reported by the ISSA in March, these schemes, which allow employers to flexibly reduce working hours of their employees while the income loss of employees is covered through unemployment insurance, were extended or newly implemented at a massive scale shortly after the onset of the coronavirus crisis. In many cases, they were considered an essential measure to cushion the economic shock resulting from lockdown restrictions.