Social Security – The Way Forward

SKCOH Summit 8th Thinker’s and Writers Forum, March 2011

14 Pages Posted: 1 May 2011

Date Written: March 18, 2011


The world today also faces a large number of complex crises: Financial crisis; Terrorism; Numerous armed conflicts in recent years; Health disasters, such as the HIV/AIDS crisis; Natural disasters, such as recurrent droughts and floods earthquakes and hurricanes, tsunami, etc.; Crisis on account of process of making economic, as well as political transitions, etc.

Globalization, either alone or in combination with technological change, often exposes societies to greater income insecurity. More than half of the world’s population is excluded from any type of statutory social security.

In most developing countries, the family is the traditional social institution for the care of the elderly and is expected to continue the role of care-giver as the principal source of support and security in old-age.

Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection, or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. But there is quite a bit of confusion about what social security means, and also about the concept of social protection.

The traditional concept of social security is included in various ILO standards (64, 67, 102 etc)(1976).

They cover mainly income which is lost due to the inability to work (including old age) or to obtain remunerative work, or by reason of the death of the Bread winner, Medical coverage, Social insurance etc. The ILO has an administrative concept of social protection, which basically includes social security and labour protection. But this definition has been felt as too narrow for the problems faced by developing countries.

There is growing awareness that social security should be understood within the context of the development process. This includes not only Pension schemes and Health insurance, but also unemployability, issues of gender discrimination, child labour, the formal –informal sectors of employment etc. Hence a wider concept of social security is needed in order to respond to the realities faced by informal economy workers, who constitute the majority of the world labour force.

Sen (1999) takes a very broad definition of social security, makes it equivalent to all policies that promote and protect living standards. Drèze and Sen (1991) as well as Burgess and Stern (1991) distinguish two aspects of social security, which they define as the use of social means to prevent deprivation (promote living standards) and vulnerability to deprivation (protect against falling living standards).

In general, there are three principal ways to extend social security: Through efforts to extend statutory social insurance; Extend coverage through community-based schemes; Extend social security is through the promotion of cost-effective tax financed social benefits.

Social security in countries like India needs to be viewed as part of, and fully integrated into, anti-poverty policies, providing access to productive assets, employment guarantees, minimum wages and food security. Further there is a gender dimension also.

This paper looks at social security as part of the development process and reviews the current practices followed in various countries including India and suggests improvement of the same by initiatives of government involving the various stake holders of the community including Corporates as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.

Suggested Citation

Ramachandran, Ramakrishnan, Social Security – The Way Forward (March 18, 2011). SKCOH Summit 8th Thinker’s and Writers Forum, March 2011, Available at SSRN:

Ramakrishnan Ramachandran (Contact Author)

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