Transcript of the Video-message by Angel Gurría
22 September 2020
(As prepared for delivery)
Minister, Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Never before have our social protection systems faced such a test. Millions of workers have lost their jobs since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more have fallen into inactivity or are working partial hours. Across the globe, many people who have managed to rise out of poverty are now at risk of sliding back. This is devastating on an individual level but also has broader societal and economic impacts, affecting social cohesion, access to opportunities, human capital accumulation, consumption, labour market participation, productivity and, down the line, the growth potential of our economies.
Investing in and promoting effective social protection systems should be at the heart of the response to and the recovery from this crisis – this is a social imperative and an economic necessity. But we are not quite there yet.
Countries with well-developed social protection systems have been able to provide a degree of income security for many, through paid sick-leave schemes, unemployment insurance, and short-time work schemes. But, even in these countries, many workers in non-standard forms of work have found themselves without adequate levels of social protection.
The situation is worse in countries with large informal economies and less developed welfare systems. Lack of coverage for most workers in the informal economy is one reason that 55% of the world’s population, or more than 4 billion people, is not or is only partially covered by social protection.
But where political will has met data and financial resources, action has been swift and has made an enormous difference to millions of people. Countries across the globe have introduced a raft of emergency policies and cash transfers to support people through the crisis. Even poorer countries in situations of fragility and conflict have been able to flex and increase coverage.
But we need to take it a step further. As we work towards a recovery that is more resilient, inclusive and sustainable, we must patch the gaps in the safety net, while ensuring sustainable financing and targeting.
Bringing more people within the reach of social safety nets will require mobilizing all sources of financing.
Starting by increasing countries’ capacities to mobilize their domestic resources, by diversifying tax revenues, including by broadening tax bases. In some areas, like corporate tax reform, it is clear that international coordination and cooperation is required. Through the work of the Global Forum on Tax Transparency, of initiatives such as the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, as well as initiatives such as Tax Inspectors without Borders, the OECD has made significant progress over the last decade.
Besides social assistance, there is also an urgent need to encourage formalisation and extend coverage of contributory social insurance among informal economy workers.
But international financing has also an important, catalytic role to play in building sustainable social protection systems. Today, only 0.4% of the total Official Development Assistance (ODA) is targeted to social protection . The effectiveness of development co-operation and finance must remain at the centre of the international response, striking a balance between short-term results and long-term capacity and institution building.
How effectively international partners align their support with countries’ national priorities and needs, and how inclusively and transparently this support is designed and delivered, will matter for reinforcing institutional and government capabilities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Covid-19 has reminded us that social protection, across the globe, is a public good. We need to collectively scale up countries’ capacities to achieve social protection for all.
The stakes are very high and we very much welcome this opportunity to discuss how a Global Fund on "Social Protection for All" can help respond to the need for global action.