Mutual benefit societies have played a significant role in the ISSA as its founding members. The ISSA Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies was one of the original technical commissions created in 1951. Its purpose is to provide networks for experts to collaborate and advance discussions on technical aspects of mutual benefit societies and foster research and analysis on specific areas of social security.
The model of governance of mutual benefit societies embodies the principle of solidarity, which is central to social protection. This model fits somewhere between public and private ownership. It plays an essential role in national health systems, family support, as well as in other areas of social services. As such, it is a model that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the provision of residential services to ageing populations.
Mutual benefit societies are one of the important pillars within the framework of holistic social protection in many countries, which relies on public social insurance programmes, state aid, and the active participation of non-governmental and volunteer organizations. Cooperatives, foundations and associations, as well as mutual benefit societies are key components of the social economy. Their programmes are affordable and effective in reducing poverty and inequality, providing resilience to the hardships of life for various population groups. Mutual benefit societies have specific features that set them apart from other types of organizations. They are governed by the democratic principle of “one member, one vote” thus enabling members to have a strong voice in the decision-making process, creating a social bond with fellow members. Mutual benefit societies operate within legislative frameworks preventing discrimination in the selection of members. They strive to act in accordance with public policy and its principles of universality, solidarity and mutual responsibility.
Based on the above-mentioned historical and institutional profile of mutual benefit societies, the main objective of the ISSA Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies is to carry out a coherent programme of activities through knowledge sharing in the field of technical and administrative improvements. In particular, the technical commission has collected ample evidence of good practices demonstrating that mutual benefit societies have a great potential to extend social security coverage and improve the adequacy of benefits and services.
The current priorities of the Technical Commission on Mutual Benefit Societies are focused on the evolving needs of an ageing population, social security coverage in a changing world, the role of social security in promoting inclusive growth and social cohesion. In line with these priorities, it the technical commission is widely acknowledged for its ongoing contributions to the ISSA’s research and innovation activities on topics such as coverage gaps for difficult-to-cover groups, caregivers training, rehabilitation, and innovative experiences in palliative care and autonomy of the older adult.