UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (Hg:): Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Looking back to look ahead: A rights-based approach to social protection in the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, September 11, 2020.
As the world faces the deepest economic recession since the 1929 Great Depression, social protection is again on the top of the international agenda, years after the adoption in 2012 of Recommendation No.202 on National Social Protection Floors within the International Labour Organization. As countries rush to issue cash transfers, unemployment benefits, and in-kind support for their citizens, the Special Rapporteur assesses the responses governments are providing, examines the global state of public services and human rights before the pandemic, and reflects on the challenges that lie ahead.
In this report, submitted in response to resolution 44/13 of the Human Rights Council, the Special Rapporteur argues that the world was ill-equipped to deal with the socioeconomic impacts of this pandemic because it never recovered from the austerity measures imposed in the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008-2011. The legacy of austerity measures is severely underfunded public healthcare systems, undervalued and precarious care work, sustained declines in global labour income shares, and high inequality rates coupled with average decreases in statutory corporate tax rates. With public services in dire straits, one-off cash transfers are a drop in the bucket for people living in poverty, whether in developed, developing, or least developed countries.
Maladapted, short-term, reactive, and inattentive to the realities of people in poverty, the new wave of social protection hype must hold up to human rights scrutiny. This report identifies eight challenges that must be addressed in order to bring social protection in line with human rights standards.