Development Centre

Ministers from 57 countries stress urgency of strengthening universal social protection


Paris, 21 May 2019 - Policy makers in developing economies are facing increasingly complex decisions as they tackle the challenge of rising inequalities amidst slower global growth and environmental threats. Those issues were addressed at the Fifth High-level Meeting of the OECD Development Centre Governing Board today in Paris, under the heading “Development for All: The role of domestic and international policies”.

OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría welcomed officials from 57 member countries, international organisations and civil society representatives, under the co-chairmanship of Côte d’Ivoire, People’s Republic of China, Spain and Uruguay.

The Centre also welcomed three new members - Ecuador, Rwanda and Togo- weeks after the recent accession of El Salvador and Guatemala. They join a diverse group of 52 OECD and non-OECD countries from all world regions. The Centre will support their efforts to implement better policies for better lives, offering comparative perspectives on their respective structural challenges, and facilitating the exchange of policy experiences.

The members restated their commitment to multilateral cooperation. They reaffirmed the OECD Development Centre’s unique role in the international architecture as a platform where countries at various levels of development discuss on an equal footing the policy solutions for more inclusive and sustainable growth.

Successfully tackling inequalities and vulnerability calls upon a holistic approach in which domestic policies and international cooperation play a prominent role. Among those, the advancement of universal social protection has an essential role to play in reducing poverty and inequality. As an investment in people’s productivity and employability, it can also generate substantial economic gains and strengthen resilience. Yet, only a quarter of the world population has access to social protection. Ministers and high-level officials called for closing that global coverage gap by expanding both social insurance, which relies on employment-related contributions and thus may not reach the poorest, and social assistance, which targets the poor but depends on scarce public finance. They pointed to three challenges:

  • Providing informal economy workers –who make up the bulk of the workforce in many countries-  with fair, efficient and sustainable social protection solutions, while implementing strategies for decent, formal job creation;
  • Finding fair and sustainable  ways of funding social protection programmes in countries where regressive tax systems only allow for a limited net impact on poverty reduction;
  • Building gender-sensitive corrective measures in social insurance schemes, in order to avoid the risk of universal social protection merely transmitting gender inequality from market incomes to social transfers.


To overcome those challenges, governments need to put in place strategies that promote formalisation, raise productivity, strengthen occupational health and safety at work, broaden the tax base and increase tax collection.

In support of these objectives, Ministers welcomed the Centre’s work on new Key Indicators of Informality based on Individuals and their Household (KIIBIH) as a tool to better grasp informality and devise appropriate responses. They also saluted the results of the Centre’s Social Protection Systems Programme, conducted in collaboration with the European Commission and the government of Finland, and the release of two studies: Tackling Vulnerability in the Informal Economy and Can Social Protection be an Engine for Inclusive Growth?; as well as the outcomes and Call to Action of the 2019 High-Level Conference Together to Achieve Universal Social Protection by 2030.

The Centre’s member countries adopted a Policy Statement with key principles on advancing universal social protection and calling upon all countries to live up to their commitments to develop nationally owned social protection systems, including social protection floors, coherently with Agenda 2030 and the relevant SDGs.

Finally, the 57 countries gave a mandate to the Development Centre to further inform their debates and strategies on innovative solutions for social protection in the context of informality, the financing of public policies, notably for quality infrastructure, and the advancement of the Development in Transition approach for a more  inclusive international co-operation system.

This week, following the High-Level Meeting, the Development Centre is  hosting a High Level Dialogue with Africa (Tuesday 21 May), a business meeting of the OECD Emerging Markets Network (EMnet) on leveraging the impact of new technologies (Thursday 23 May) and the 2019 International Economic Forum on Latin America and the Caribbean (at Station F, Friday 24 May).

>> Access the full version of the High-Level Meeting Communiqué and the Policy Statement on universal social protection.

 >> Read OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría's speach at the opening of the meeting, and at the opening of the High-Level Dialogue with Africa.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Bochra Kriout (+33 145 24 82 96) at the OECD Development Centre Press Office. 


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