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Global Social Floor: a Universal Social Pension. Silvia Stefanoni Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Programmes HelpAge International. Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Art 22: Everyone …… has a right to social security

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global social floor a universal social pension

Global Social Floor: a Universal Social Pension

Silvia Stefanoni

Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Programmes

HelpAge International

social security a right and a public service
Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Art 22: Everyone …… has a right tosocial security

Art 25: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being of himself and his family

Art 25: …and the right to security in the event of….old age

Social security: a right and a public service
challenging the development paradigm
Little success in reaching MDG 1 – income poverty and hunger

In a market economy, families need cash to live

Development practitioners – and governments – promote work (eg. livelihoods programmes; micro-credit)

But, many cannot work or get enough income

Global social floor provides a means of achieving MDG 1 through provision of comprehensive social security to complement work

Challenging the development paradigm
social security an essential public service
Four essential public services:



Safe water and sanitation

Social security

A system of regular and predictable cash transfers aimed at tackling poverty and promoting economic growth

Social Security – an essential public service
impact of social pensions on poverty in south africa








older people



only with


older people







Poverty gap reduction

Destitution gap reduction

Impact of social pensionson poverty in South Africa
investment in children

Pensions associated with a 3-4cm increase in height among children in South Africa


South Africa pension led to 8% increase in enrolment among poorest 20% of children

Similar impact in Brazil among girls aged 12-14

Investment in children
why universal social pensions
Poverty targeting is difficult in developed countries – large inclusion and exclusion errors

Administratively more complicated and expensive

In developing countries, we do not know how to target – therefore, errors will be much greater

Benefits often captured by the better-off (eg. India and Bangladesh)

Community targeting causes discord in communities

Targeted social pensions will be denounced as corrupt

Poverty targeting will create disincentives to save and contribute to other pension schemes

Greater political acceptability for universal benefits

Amartya Sen: “A benefit for the poor is a poor benefit”

Why universal socialpensions?
world bank model of pension system
World Bank model of pension system

Social Pensions



social pensions are part of a broader package
We need to look at the whole life cycle and associated vulnerabilities

Social pensions need to complement child benefits, disability benefits, support for the unemployed and free access to health services

Politically, however, social pensions are likely to be the easiest to introduce

Example of southern Africa – initial political support for social pensions

Happens where governments have more meaningful accountability to citizens

Where governments are accountable to donors, there is a preference for targeted social assistance programmes (eg. Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan) which are driven by northern consultants

Global Social Floor need to challenge this approach and advocate for universal approaches

Social pensions are part ofa broader package