ILO to developing countries: guarantee basic income security, essential healthcare access for all

By Akanimo Sampson

For the developing countries, it is almost a task impossible. To guarantee just basic income security and access to essential health care for all citizens between now and the turn of the year.

©Asian Development Bank

To achieve such a miracle, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a new policy brief says they will have to invest around $1.2 trillion, which on average is 3.8 per cent of their GDP.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the social protection financing gap has increased by approximately 30 per cent according to, Financing gaps in social protection: Global estimate and strategies for developing countries in light of the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. 

This is the result of the increased need for health-care services and income security for workers who lost their jobs during the lockdown and the reduction of GDP caused by the crisis.
Financing gaps in social protection: Global estimates and strategies for…Closing the social protection coverage gap, worsened by COVID-19, will require additional sources of financing.

The situation is particularly dire in low-income countries who would need to spend nearly 16 per cent of their GDP to close the gap – around $80 billion

Regionally, the relative burden of closing the gap is particularly high in Central and Western Asia, Northern Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa (between 8 per cent and 9 per cent of their GDP).

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the global community was failing to live up to the social protection legal and policy commitments it had made in the wake of the last global catastrophe – the 2008 financial crisis.

Currently, only 45 per cent of the global population is effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit. The remaining population – more than four billion people – is completely unprotected.

National and international measures to reduce the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis have provided short-term financing assistance.

Some countries have sought innovative sources to increase the fiscal space for extending social protection, like taxes on the trade of large tech companies, the unitary taxation of multinational companies, taxes on financial transactions or airline tickets.

With austerity measures already emerging even with the crisis ongoing, these efforts are more pressing than ever, the study says.

Director of the ILO’s Social Protection Department, Shahrashoub Razavi, says “low-income countries must invest approximately $80 billion, nearly 16 per cent of their GDP, to guarantee at least basic income security and access to essential health care to all.

“Domestic resources are not nearly enough. Closing the annual financing gap requires international resources based on global solidarity.”

Mobilisation at the international level should complement national efforts, says the ILO.

International financial institutions and development cooperation agencies have already introduced several financial packages to help governments of developing countries tackle the various effects of the crisis but more resources are needed to close the financing gap, particularly in low-income countries.