The Federal Government has joined hands with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to promote and provide social protection for Nigerians, with a view to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni, made who this known at the Launch of the World Social Protection Report 2017- 2019 on Tuesday in Abuja, lamented that lack of social protection leaves people vulnerable to ill-health, poverty, inequality and social exclusion throughout a person’s life cycle.
The report had revealed that about 4 billion people in the world were left without social protection, including about 82 percent of the total population in Africa.
According to the minister, social protection was a right which should be recognised and respected by all government, as it constitutes a significant obstacle to economic and social development in society.
He stressed that the deficits of social protection in Africa especially in Nigeria, was glaring and worrisome despite its unique position at the heart of the decent work agenda.
Ocheni also noted that the launch of the report would guide Nigeria in unveiling the gaps and limitations confronting social protection coverage within its domain, as well as the measures to employ in order to achieve a successful implementation of an appropriate social protection system nationally and regionally to reduce and prevent poverty in the country.
“One thing that has been established is that achieving universal social protection is something that is possible and achievable if only we take the collective efforts and the right steps in the right direction.
“With presently about 16 up-to-date social protection standards which can guide national social protection policies and the abundant God given resources at our disposal, there is no reason why we in Nigeria or Africa or the World at large, should be lagging behind in universal social protection enhancement.
“Even in the poorest of countries, the fiscal and policy space for extending social protection for all exists and, what is required, is for Governments in collaboration and partnership with social partners to be proactive in exploring and channeling our human and natural resource endowment appropriately to promote social protection for all, especially now that all hands must be on deck to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in terms of its social protection components.
“On our part as government, we are fully committed and will do everything within our means to collaborate and cooperate with the organisation in the discharge of our common and mutual objectives and aspirations as far as social protection for our citizens is concerned,” he said.
Delivering the keynote address, Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa, International Labour Organisation, Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, disclosed that the right to health was not yet a reality in many parts of the world.
While noting that children in Africa make up the bulk of the 1.3 billion children not covered by social protection in the world, she lamented that an estimated 10 million health workers were needed to achieve universal health coverage in Africa.
Proposing a way out, Samuel-Olonjuwon urged African governments to, among other things, undertake “deliberate efforts to increase the aggregate level of public expenditure on social protection coverage.
“We must extend social protection coverage to those in the informal economy and facilitate their transition to the formal economy are key to promoting decent work and preventing poverty. Coverage extensions can be achieved in multiple ways, the most common being a mix of contributory and non-contributory.
“An honest reassessment if short term austerity or fiscal consolidation reforms which may undermine the long term development efforts as they tend to achieve cost savings, ignoring negative social impacts with regard to coverage and benefit adequacy, and thus jeopardising advances towards achieving the SDGs,” she said.
Earlier, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) High Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Alves Fernando Jorge, urged regional protection actors to work towards extending social protection to the informal sector and vulnerable people, even as he called on African leaders to heighten efforts in facilitating intraregional mobility to enhance the protection of migrant workers’ rights.
He pledged the commitment of ECOWAS towards addressing existing challenges in the provision of social protection to promote what he described as a, “modernization and expansion of social protection systems in order to provide more reliable and effective protection to as many people as possible.”
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