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Campaign for Social Security Hits its Pace

There is growing awareness that social security should be understood within the context of the development process. Social security has long been considered by the United Nations as a basic human right. The International Labour Organization estimates that only about twenty percent of the world’s population has adequate social security coverage while more than half the world has no coverage at all.  The history of social security in Africa dates back to pre-independence period when civil service pensions and employment injury schemes were introduced. However, there has been a steady expansion of more modern forms of social security schemes particularly following the accession of independence by many countries. There is at present, however, no in depth study of why these arrangements or schemes have developed in the way they have, nor has there been an in depth analysis of the structure of the current institutions, the range and scope of covers, as well as the process of benefit delivery.

The large majority of the labor force in Africa lacks any kind of Social Security protection. In general, those without coverage are usually part of the informal economy. They are generally not protected in old age by social security and cannot afford to pay for their health care. The vulnerable groups outside the labor force are the people with disabilities and old people who cannot count on family support or who have been able to make provisions for their own pensions.

Globalization either alone or in combination with technological change often exposes societies to greater income insecurity. It is good to know that plans are now underway in Kenya to ensure that all workers in both the formal and the informal sectors are guaranteed support measures based on the principle of solidarity. Under the social security campaign in Africa, the International Labor Organization intends to work with governments and social partners to define national action plans, support local efforts to extend coverage, share experience of good practices, and raise the priority of social security extension on the development agenda for Africa.  

The expansion of informal employment has become a major obstacle to extending coverage of social security systems across the African continent. What's more, the financial feasibility of systems which do exist is threatened by such phenomena as weakness of governance and the impact of HIV/AIDS. As a result, workers often have few options when it comes to ensuring that illness, injury or unemployment doesn't plunge them deeper into poverty and despair.

With help from the ILO, African workers have formed their own community-based health insurance plan enabling them to make small, regular contributions which can ensure ongoing access to basic medical care. Despite its relative simplicity, local doctors say the plan makes a world of difference in raising the level of health care in the community. And, the ILO will seek to work with governments and the social partners to define national action plans, support local efforts to extend coverage, share good practices, and raise the priority of social security extension on the development and poverty reduction agenda for Africa.

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