SHAHRA RAZAVI | ENGENDERING SOCIAL SECURITY AND PROTECTION
The global economic crisis in 2007 / 8 underlined, onceagain, the important role of social security and protectionas a buffer against the adverse social affects of suddendrops in income / employment. It also revived interest inthe role of social protection as a countercyclical measurefor stimulating aggregate demand and facilitating recove-ry from economic downturns. Prompted by the social fall-outs of the recent crisis as well as favourable assessmentsof experiences in some several developing countries, UNagencies and non-governmental organizations have joinedforces to advocate strongly in favour of social protection.Given all that has been said about the adverse impli-cations of economic crises for women, it is importantto ask how effective these different systems of socialprotection are going to be in preventing gender-baseddeprivation and tackling gender inequalities. This paperseeks to address this question by focusing on developingcountries in particular.In practice there are significant variations in crisis re-sponse across countries. In advanced welfare states,austerity measures in some countries risk underminingthe fiscal and institutional basis of their social securitysystems. Early assessments suggest that these measuresare also likely to constitute a setback for gender equality(UK Women’s Budget Group 2010). Fast-growing lower-and middle-income countries whose financial systemswere relatively insulated from the crisis, however, may beable to expand their nascent social protection systems toaddress the adverse impacts on employment and liveli-hoods. How effective are these systems going to be inmeeting women’s needs and enhancing gender equali-ty? In other developing countries characterized by fiscaland institutional weaknesses, as well as the absence ofstrong political coalitions supportive of social protection,policy inaction may be the more likely outcome. Policy
, however, is far from gender-neutral, for it meansmaintaining the power relations and gender inequalitiesenshrined by the
2. A note on terminology
Apart from employment, savings and accumulated as-sets (such as land and housing), and the unpaid workthat goes into sustaining livelihoods, economic securityalso requires
social protection or social security
me-chanisms.The basic idea of social security is to use »social meansto prevent deprivation and vulnerability to deprivation«(Drèze and Sen 1991: 5). Social protection, likewise, isconcerned with preventing, managing and overcomingsituations that adversely affect people’s well-being orliving standards.
It includes contingencies such as illness,disability, maternity, and old age; market-risks such asunemployment and price volatilities that adversely affectthe incomes of farmers or self-employed workers; as wellas economic crises and natural disasters (UNRISD 2010).Social protection instruments encompass social insuranceand social assistance programmes.
re-fers to employment-related programmes financed fromcontributions from employers and employees based onearnings.
provides transfers to thosewho are unable to work or excluded from gainful employ-ment, and who are deemed eligible, whether on the basisof their income, age or some other criteria of vulnerability,or on the basis of their rights as citizens. Public employ-ment programmes are also a form of social assistance. So-cial assistance programmes are usually financed throughgeneral taxation and external resources (UNRISD 2010).Social protection instruments encompass social insur-ance and social assistance programmes. Social insurancerefers to employment-related programmes financedfrom contributions from employers and employeesbased on earnings. Social assistance provides transfersto those who are unable to work or excluded from gain-ful employment, and who are deemed eligible, whetheron the basis of their income, age or some other criteriaof vulnerability, or on the basis of their rights as citizens.Public employment programmes are also a form of socialassistance. Social assistance programmes are usually fi-nanced through general taxation and external resources(UNRISD 2010).Some of the work on social protection within the WorldBank has identified »social risk management« (SRM)as its preferred framework (Holzmann and Jorgensen
* I would like to thank Sarah Cook and Susan Javad for useful commentson an earlier draft.1. The concept of social protection is broader than social security becauseit also covers non-statutory schemes (ILO 2001: 8).
1. After the crisis: Social securityand protection in the spotlight