According to a working paper of the International Labour Organization (ILO), achieving universal coverage of social protection for low- and middle-income countries requires an additional $1.4 trillion annually.

Key Highlights 

  • Financing Gap Estimates: The ILO document presents global, regional, and country-specific estimates of the financing gap needed to achieve universal social protection.
    This includes universal access to essential healthcare and five key social protection guarantees: for children, persons with severe disabilities, mothers of newborns, older persons, and the unemployed.
  • The paper highlighted the significant challenge of financing, particularly for low-income countries, where the gap is more than half (52.3 per cent) of their annual gross domestic product (GDP).
    The majority of the required funds (60.1%) are for essential healthcare. 
  • Countries Covered: The study includes 133 low- and middle-income countries.
  • Regional Analysis: In low- and middle-income countries, the financing gap for universal social protection stands at 3.3 % of GDP annually, with essential health care accounting for 2% and the five key social protection cash benefits accounting for 1.3%.
    Among various regions, Africa faces the most significant challenge in attaining universal social protection coverage, with a financing gap of 17.6% of the region’s annual GDP. 
RegionFinancing Gap of Annual GDP
Arab States11.4%
Latin America and the Caribbean2.7%
Asia and Pacific2%
Europe and Central Asia1.9%
  • Country-Specific Challenges: Sudan experiences the largest financing gap among all low- and middle-income countries, attributed to conflicts, disease outbreaks, economic and political instability, and climate crises.

Recommendations/Measures to be taken 

  • Government Spending and Resource Mobilization: To achieve universal coverage, low- and middle-income countries need to boost government spending by 10.6 % of total annual spending.
    This can be achieved through domestic resources like taxation, social security contributions, and improved sovereign debt management.
  • Importance of Universal Social Protection: The working paper stresses the critical role of universal social protection in addressing the impacts of the climate crisis by reducing vulnerabilities and mitigating climate shocks.
  • Imposing Carbon Tax: To mitigate climate change, there is a need to eliminate regressive fossil fuel subsidies (explicit fossil fuel subsidies) and raise the price of carbon-intensive goods and services through a carbon tax that accounts for the environmental costs of carbon use. 

About the International Labour Organization (ILO) 

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) is devoted to promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, pursuing its founding mission that social justice is essential to universal and lasting peace.

The ILO brings together governments, employers and workers of 187 Member States, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

  • History: Founded in 1919 through the Treaty of Versailles, making it one of the oldest UN agencies.
  • Became a specialized UN (United Nations) agency in 1946.
  • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland. 

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