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«Protecting the poor A microinsurance compendium Edited by Craig Churchill Protecting the poor A microinsurance compendium Protecting the poor A ...»

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– Microinsurance schemes should not only be evaluated on technical aspects (e.g. financial viability), but also on their capacity to reach social protection outcomes; the socio-economic impact of these schemes on members and non-members should be taken into consideration.

– A non-regulated market may fail to provide an efficient benefit package for the poor.

– Microinsurance schemes can play an important role in the empowerment and participation of their members, which has implications in terms of the design of the products, the choice of the benefit package, affordability and the organization of the schemes.

–  –  –

2 What is social security? What is social protection?

2.1 Definition, objectives and key functions According to the ILO (2000), social security is the protection which society

provides for its members through a series of public measures:

– to compensate for the absence or substantial reduction of income from work resulting from various contingencies (notably sickness, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, invalidity, old age and death of the breadwinner), – to provide people with healthcare, – to provide benefits for families with children.2 Social protection includes not only public social security schemes but also private or non-statutory schemes with similar objectives, such as mutual benefit societies and occupational pension schemes, provided that the contributions to these schemes are not wholly determined by market forces.

This definition of social protection is one of several approaches. Other organizations, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, use more holistic conceptions of social protection (“social risk management”).

They include a larger range of contingencies – anything that affects individuals’ income security – which naturally overlaps with other sector policies, such as education or labour. This broader view not only includes protecting mechanisms, but also promotional interventions to increase assets or economic opportunities (such as microfinance programmes, price supports or commodity subsidies). Indeed, the concepts of social protection are still under discussion, for example in the Network on Poverty Reduction facilitated by OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.

Regardless of the specific definition, social protection is an important tool to prevent poverty and strengthen the capacity of the poor to get out of poverty. For instance, some social protection measures consist of a direct transfer of funds to the poorest (identified through means testing), which has 2 The ILO has a number of social security conventions that deal with the practical implementation of this human right. The most important is the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102).

It defines nine branches of social security and the corresponding contingencies covered:

medical care, sickness benefit, unemployment benefit, old-age benefit, employment injury benefit, family benefit, maternity benefit, invalidity benefit and survivors’ benefit. In addition, it introduces the idea of a minimum level of social security that must be achieved by all member states. To take into account different national situations, ILO conventions on social security typically contain flexibility clauses regarding the population covered, and the scope and level of benefits provided. They also give states full discretion in the organization of their social security scheme. In other words, these conventions affirm the right of everyone to social security, but recognize the practical difficulties in actually implementing this right in the social realities that prevail worldwide.

48 Principles and practices a direct and at least temporary effect on poverty. Social protection also reduces poverty through its positive impact on economic performance and productivity. It can be seen as a productive factor for three main reasons (ILO, 2005b):

1. Social protection helps people to cope with important risks and loss of income. In doing so, it can enhance and maintain the productivity of workers and create possibilities for new employment. For instance, healthcare systems help maintain workers in good health and cure those who become sick.

Similarly, work injury schemes help prevent accidents and sickness and rehabilitate injured workers.

2. Social protection can be a critical tool in managing change in the economy and the labour market. For instance, unemployment insurance creates a feeling of security among the workforce, which encourages individuals to undertake riskier initiatives that may result in a higher return for them and for the economy.

3. Social protection can stabilize the economy by providing replacement income that smoothes out consumption in recessions, thus preventing a deepening of recessions due to collapsing consumer confidence and its negative effects on domestic demand. For instance, unemployment benefits and old-age pensions help to maintain the purchasing power of workers after they have lost their jobs or retired.

Social protection can enhance principles such as solidarity, dignity and equality. Solidarity arises when everyone contributes to a common pot according to their capacity and draws from this pot according to their needs (within the limits fixed by the internal rules of the scheme). Solidarity can also materialize through the redistribution of funds raised through taxes. The level of solidarity depends on the nature of the financing instruments that are being used: while income tax or income-related contributions are usually progressive, consumption taxes or flat-rate premiums run the risk of being regressive.





Social protection is linked with the principle of dignity since it gives people the right to live a decent life whatever adverse events afflict them. Unlike charity, social protection integrates individuals in a process of exchange, where they have the right to receive and the obligation to give. Their dignity is recognized by allowing people the possibility to contribute. Social protection is also linked with the principle of equality (including gender equality) and non-discrimination when equal rights are given to all people exposed to the same risks or supporting the same burdens without discrimination.

The application of the principles of solidarity, dignity and equality within The social protection perspective on microinsurance 49 social protection help to foster social cohesion, inclusion and peace, which are prerequisites for stable long-term economic growth. Furthermore, the integrative role of social protection brings individuals or groups that have been excluded into the mainstream by providing support in accessing employment and becoming active, and possibly tax-paying, members of society (Piron, 2004). Social protection can finally be a tool to promote empowerment and participation through the representation of workers in the formal economy (within statutory social protection schemes) and informal economy (within community-based social protection schemes). This participation is one way of enhancing democracy.

The ILO’s conception of social protection (definition, functions) is shared by many institutions worldwide. Recently, the most important international federations and organizations representing the cooperative and mutual insurance sector formed the International Alliance for the Extension of Social Protection.3 Their shared vision, values and principles are articulated in “the Geneva Consensus” 2005, which recognizes that “social security is a fundamental and universal human right”. This consensus also enumerates basic principles and values regarding social protection – such as solidarity, redistribution, role in economic and social development, importance of efficiency, relevance, good governance and financial viability – and suggests that the values of the cooperative and mutualist movement be held in high regard (e.g. social justice, absence of exclusion and discrimination, non profit, participation and empowerment).

2.2 Gaps between right and reality The definition of social security as a human right starts from the principles of universality and equality: every human being is equally entitled to social security, which has two major implications.

1. States have an obligation to take measures to guarantee this right.

They have to take appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial or other measures to ensure that the right is guaranteed to their populations.

This obligation does not necessarily mean that the state has to provide social protection directly; it can facilitate or encourage actions of third parties.

Obligation can be of conduct: states have to take the necessary steps to guarThe members include: ISSA (International Social Security Association), AIM (Association Internationale de la Mutualité), ICA (International Cooperative Alliance), ICMIF (International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation), IHCO (International Health Co-operative Organization), WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) and the ILO. For more details about the International Alliance, see www.social-protection.org.

50 Principles and practices antee a particular right. Obligation can also be of result: states have to achieve specific targets to satisfy a specific standard. In addition, there is an obligation of the international community, so far unofficially recognized, to support states with insufficient resources to guarantee human rights, including the right to social security. This is in line with the idea behind the Global Fund for Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

2. Everybody is entitled to a minimum level of social protection, without exception or discrimination. This entitlement includes an equitable access to social protection, independent of individuals’ age, sex, health status, location, occupation or income level. This entitlement to a minimum level of social protection is often used to justify the design and implementation of equity subsidies from the rich to the poor.

Yet in many developing countries, social protection coverage is dramatically low: it reaches only a small proportion of the population and provides protection against only a limited range of risks. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, only 5 to 10 per cent of the population is covered by a statutory social security scheme, primarily old-age pension schemes and access to healthcare (ILO, 2001). In some countries, the percentage of the population covered is even shrinking due to structural adjustment policies, privatization and the development of the informal economy. Although some excluded people work in the formal sector, the vast majority are active in the informal economy.

Until the last decade, social protection strategies were based on the assumption that the formal economy would progressively gain ground on the traditional economy, and therefore social security would progressively cover a larger proportion of the workforce. However, this has not happened.

In many developing countries, most of the jobs created during the last decade have been in the informal economy (ILO, 2002a). Today, informal employment comprises one half to three quarters of non-agricultural employment in developing countries. If informal employment in agriculture is included in the estimates, the proportion of informal employment increases significantly, for example from 83 to 93 per cent in India, from 55 to 62 per cent in Mexico, and from 23 to 34 per cent in South Africa (ILO, 2001). Although some states have tried, so far attempts to extend the coverage of statutory social security to workers in the informal economy have been insufficient.

The social protection perspective on microinsurance 51

2.3 Priority to extend social protection coverage It is therefore necessary to find other ways to translate the right to social protection into reality. At the International Labour Conference in 2001, governments and employers’ and workers’ organizations representing 160 countries agreed upon a new consensus on social security; they agreed notably that highest priority should be given to policies and initiatives to extend social

security to those who have none, and they proposed several ways of accomplishing that objective:



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