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An international workshop, held online yesterday, recommended the need to expand social security and social protection in Jordan, to include the largest possible number of people. It criticised the restriction of its services to wage workers only.
Held by Development Pathways, an organisation working on social protection, the workshop invited international experts to discuss the effects resulting from gaps in the social security system. In particular, they discussed how these gaps prevent the achievement of the long-term development goals of the countries in the MENA region. The panel stressed the need to expand the scope of social security allocations to include the majority of the population. Their approach is rights-based, and covers risks across the lifecycle.
The workshop concluded that there is an urgent need to modify the discourse of social protection provision in the region, to move away from the old prevailing model based on the concept of relief for the poor, and to move towards a modern and comprehensive model of social security.
The panellists indicated that the prevailing social security model in the region, including Jordan, is a divided model that does not provide social security to a large segment of the population. These people, the so-called “missing middle”, do receive middle incomes but they are nonetheless low and unstable. The panellists noted that the exclusion of this group from receiving social security – and other public services – poses a major challenge in middle-income countries, which may lead to a decline in confidence in the state, “in addition to increasingly becoming a major source of public disorder”.
The workshop stated that social security plans tend to provide support to workers in the formal economy exclusively, while the rest of the population receives low-quality programmes for the “poor.”
The expert discussions at the workshop indicated that an effective and comprehensive social security system is an essential component of any successful and sustainable economy, and constitutes a pillar for establishing a solid social contract and paving the way towards a cohesive society, noting that high-income countries invest an average of 12% of GDP in social security systems that support people at all stages of the life cycle, from childhood to old age.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that access to social security is a basic human right. The participants emphasised the need to provide this right to every person – not only to workers in the formal sector: “Perhaps this fact has never been so clear as it was in the wake of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, global health, and well-being, as countries that invested in developing comprehensive social security systems for all stages of the life cycle were better equipped to respond to the crisis”.