‘Nigeria not making progress in social security implementation’ 

International Labour Organization

The excuses of lack of resources for not implementing social security initiatives by Nigeria and other countries not making progress is no longer tenable, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has said.

According to its social protection floors calculator, ILO argued that it is indeed possible to estimate the costs of child and orphan allowances, maternity benefits, public works programs for those without jobs, disability and old-age pensions.

It submitted that even the poorest countries can afford to extend social protection to all their citizens.In its world social protection report, ILO posited that universal coverage in old-age pensions have been achieved by more than 20 countries that include Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mongolia, Namibia, South Africa, Timor Leste, Trinidad and Tobago and Zanzibar (Tanzania).

It explained that countries normally achieve universal coverage by a combination of contributory social insurance and tax-based social assistance or social protection floors. The cost of universal benefits for 364 million children, 81 million pregnant women, 103 million persons with severe disabilities and 153 million older persons ranges from 0.3 per cent of GDP for Mongolia to 9.8 per cent of GDP for Sierra Leone – with an average cost of 4.2 per cent of GDP in 57 lower income countries.

On the findings of the report, Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department, Isabel Ortiz, said: “From a global perspective, these life-changing benefits for 700 million people – nearly 10 per cent of the world’s population – would require only 0.23 per cent of global GDP. That’s just 1.1 per cent of what G20 countries spent to bail out the financial sector in 2009. It is a question of priorities.” “It is imperative that governments explore all possible financing alternatives to promote national socio-economic development with jobs and social protection.”

The report noted that there is a wide variety of options to generate resources for social protection, including reallocating public expenditures, increasing tax revenues, expanding social security revenues, lobbying for aid and transfers, eliminating illicit financial flows, and managing debt, among others.

The report draws examples from Ghana where Nigeria can learn from on how to use petrol-dollar to fund social security thus: “Indonesia, Ghana and other developing countries are using fuel subsidies for social protection. Argentina, Brazil, Tunisia and Uruguay, among others, extended contributory social security coverage by formalizing workers in the informal economy. More than 60 countries have successfully renegotiated debts, using savings from debt servicing for social programs. Brazil used a financial transaction tax to expand social protection. Bolivia, Mongolia and Zambia are financing universal old-age pensions, child benefits and other schemes from taxes on mining and gas.”

ILO stated that extending national social protection systems, including floors, requires national consultations to agree on national priorities, identify programmes to close social protection gaps, set adequate benefits levels, and estimate the potential costs and possible financing sources based on national circumstances.

It added that national social dialogue is fundamental to generate political will and to explore all possible fiscal space options in a country, articulating optimal solutions to promote jobs and social protection.

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