The International Social Security Association (ISSA) has published the Annual Review 2020/21. The report naturally focuses on how social security institutions around the world have responded to the COVID-19 crisis and how the ISSA has supported its global membership in these efforts.
Under the theme Supporting our members through the pandemic, the ISSA’s annual review puts a spotlight on the role of social security in tackling the crisis. The ISSA’s COVID-19 Monitor has mapped over 1,600 social security measures in 206 countries and territories.
“What strikes me is how social security institutions rose to the challenge. The pressure and the expectations have been enormous and unexpected. Still, social security institutions have delivered, often beyond their usual mandates”, ISSA President Joachim Breuer wrote in his message to the ISSA membership in the report.
Measures on health-care and sickness benefits, unemployment protection and employment retention, emergency measures for vulnerable groups, family-related benefits, contribution obligations, and occupational diseases and prevention have been widespread. While concrete national responses have varied depending on needs, available resources and institutional capacity, social security has played a crucial role in easing the social and economic consequences almost everywhere.
Supporting the ISSA membership
The ISSA has put all its efforts into supporting its 318 member institutions in 159 countries through data gathering, analysis and knowledge sharing during the pandemic. Almost every week over the last year, the ISSA has offered one or more webinars. Speakers from social security organizations of all sizes, from all branches and from all corners of the world have shared their experiences with their international colleagues. Speakers from other international organizations and experts on social security have also contributed.
Building on the webinars, the COVID-19 monitor and over 200 entries to the regional Good Practice Award competitions for Africa and the Americas, the ISSA has also produced a weekly analysis. These online articles provide unique insight into trends and concrete responses of social security institutions to COVID-19, but also to more general socio-economic and labour market developments.
“While COVID-19 has been our predominating focus area, we were able to gradually build bridges to other key topics in line with ISSA priorities for the 2020–2022 triennium”, ISSA Secretary General Marcelo Abi-Ramia Caetano said in an interview in the annual review.
Digital transformation and health
The annual review takes a closer look at two such general trends, and where COVID-19 has accelerated developments, notably the digital transformation in social security and the increasing need for affordable and high-quality health and long-term care.
While digitalization is nothing new to social security institutions, the COVID-19 pandemic strongly accelerated the shift. With lockdowns, social distancing and teleworking, new digital solutions had to be found and existing ones ramped up almost overnight. Through digital means, social security institutions were able to ensure business continuity, reach and serve beneficiaries, and implement emergency social security responses.
Health and long-term care have been of high priority for social security institutions for some time. Ageing populations in many parts of the world is one of the drivers for this. During the pandemic, focus has been on the resilience of health systems and the use of eHealth solutions. The annual review also presents the new ISSA Working Group on Rehabilitation, and rehabilitation has only become more important in view of COVID-19.
International perspectives and efforts
The pandemic has truly demonstrated the need to work together at the global level. The report shows how ISSA has strengthened its cooperation with a number of international organizations and platforms in order to ensure that social security, and the perspective of institutions, are truly represented in key international fora.
The ISSA’s cooperation with the G20 has been of particular importance, contributing to new G20 Policy Principles on social protection that highlight the need to strengthen institutional capacity in social protection. The ISSA has continued its close cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), and strengthened relations with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to mention some.