ILO’s Social Protection initiative articulates the need for a social protection as follows:
“The rapidly growing interconnectedness of global financial, product and labour markets poses new challenges for the maintenance or enhancement of social justice. In a world in which financial and economic crises in any region are highly contagious and their effects on labour markets and social welfare spread rapidly, the capacity of individuals to cope alone with economic risks is less effective than before. The global social risks associated with pandemics and the expected effects of climate change have a similar impact on the levels of individual social protection. National social protection systems need to be stronger than ever to neutralize additional systemic global risks. The risks and opportunities inherent in globalization require effective social protection.”
However, the ILO social protection does not propose any measures to reduce these risks; rather it focuses only on contingencies and proposes to offers a minimum kind of safety covers to help people survive. This clearly indicates that ILO tries to convince us that there is no alternative to this anti-people politico-economic regime and the socio-economic and environmental disasters that it brings, the only thing that can be done is to extend some help to the people during contingencies so that they survive and remain in the labour market. This is also in the line with broader perspective on informal sector workers, where in the focus is not on helping them to make their livelihoods sustainable, but only on extending them some safety cover to help them survive as the reserve army of labour. This is fully in line with new strategies of profit maximization in the new international division of labour shaped in the global value chains.
The real concerns of the social protection initiatives of UN and the ILO are more visible in the following statements:
“National Social Protection Floors are a social and political necessity, a minimum of income protection is the material basis for the functioning of families and households which, in turn, provide the basis for social cohesion that is pivotal for the functioning of societies and states. Without a minimum of social protection and material protection, the commitment of a major part of society to a democratic state will be at risk and with it the protection of all. This was also acknowledged by, among others, the World Bank which, in its 2005 World Development Report, made the case that poverty is a risk to protection and lack of protection can sully the investment climate.”
The above statement makes it clear that the real concern behind the social protection initiatives are not the wellbeing of the people, but the wellbeing of the capital and the state. The globalization and liberalization are worsening the conditions to the extent that it is crossing all the limits, and if something is not done, it may very soon force the emergence of anti-capital volcanic movements and revolts. This is the real danger for the transnational capitalist class and it is the real concern behind the social protection initiatives. This is why, social protection initiatives are more focused to show and convince the people that the state and the capital are concerned for them. Therefore, as in case of CSR, the emphasis of social protection initiatives is also more on ‘appear to be doing’ rather than ‘actually doing’. Because ‘actually doing’ is very costly; and effectively ‘appear to be doing’ reduces the costs and at the same time effectively manipulates the consent of the people and minimizes the discontent. This may be seen in ILO and UN praising the efforts of some developing countries like India towards achieving universal coverage of social protection. Take the example of well praised achievements in case of old age pensions in India. Firstly, the old age pension is only for the below poverty line old age people and not for all. It is also very well established that the determination and listing of poverty line people is done in such a way that large number of poor actually living below poverty line are not taken in to account. And what is actually offered under old age pension is not even sufficient for one meal every day. Is it not shameful that ILO and UN praise such pension scheme? Another example is the Unorganized Workers Social Protection Act. Apparently it looks promising, but actually it is also the strategy of ‘appear to be doing’ rather than ‘actually doing’. There are serious problems in the act itself, and on the other hand, practically this act is only on the paper, without any budget and without any implementation machinery.