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  • Social protection systems in the Caribbean

Social protection systems in the Caribbean

02 November 2022

Social protection systems in the Caribbean

International Labour Standards and the United Nations recognise access to an acceptable level of social protection as a fundamental right of every person. In light of rising firm and industry reorganisation, as well as the growth of non-standard employment, social protection is becoming increasingly important in the Caribbean area. In addition to concerns about savings, pension contributions, and unemployment and disability benefits, it encompasses many facets of food market regulation.

Food security has been compromised globally, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the Caribbean area has also been affected. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 2.8 million people (6.5% of the population) experienced food insecurity in the Caribbean in 2022. Therefore, the WFP collaborates with organisations throughout the Caribbean to improve the capacity for mapping, early warning systems, and analysis of food security. Food security supports the monitoring, analysis, and forecasting of risks for prompt action and the creation of backup plans. Moreover, the WFP conducted a lot of food security, logistical, and emergency telecommunication activities throughout the whole region. The restoration of communications networks, the creation of temporary logistics hubs, the support of relief management and port operations, and the transportation of supplies and personnel to affected areas were some of the measures taken to improve the coordination and information management of local, national, and regional responders.

On the other hand, the Caribbean region suffers from disasters that affect approximately 10% of the population. Over the past 20 years, the average annual direct damage cost from natural catastrophes in the Caribbean was US$1.6Bn.

A multi-year Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) initiative that spans four strategic pillars — vulnerability analysis, end-to-end supply chain management, shock-responsive social protection, and climate change adaptation is putting capacity strengthening measures into action to safeguard locals. In order to implement social protection activities, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), national disaster management organisations, and social protection actors at the national level, in coordination with multi-country European Parliamentary Research (EPR) services, work together to improve social protection system in the whole Caribbean region. Their measures are in charge of providing strategic oversight, technical assistance, and implementation of conservative actions.

In addition, the World Food Programme (WFP) is assisting the CDEMA and its participating states to build systems and technical capacity for a more effective, economical, and predictable response to calamities to help solve these challenges in the future.

Despite natural disasters, poverty persists throughout the Caribbean and affects 30% of the population on average. Furthermore, compared to the size of the economies of Caribbean countries, the minimum wages during catastrophes are disproportionately significant.

As a result, nations implemented a huge number of social protection policies, such as emergency cash transfers, unemployment insurance, and the enlargement of current safety nets. Families, especially those who are poor and vulnerable, may become more resilient, deal with crises, invest in the health and education of their children, find employment, boost productivity, and escape poverty with the aid of social protection.

One of the four strategic goals of the Decent Work Agenda, which establishes the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) main areas of focus, is social protection. The ILO has actively pushed policies and given its member states resources and assistance since the organisation's founding in 1919 to enhance and extend the reach of social protection to all members of society. Regarding special protection programmes, the ILO is dedicated to assisting Caribbean nations in extending social protection to all social groups, enhancing workplace safety and protection, and reducing negative effects on social, labour, and economic development.

At the same time, since the epidemic started, the World Bank has sponsored short-term social assistance programmes and emergency transfers to different nations, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, and the Grenadines. To solve structural issues, it also collaborates closely with the Caribbean governments. For instance, the World Bank assists the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) nations in developing institutional capacity and providing data for decision-making, including statistics on poverty. For example, it works on revising the social protection policy and creating and putting into practice an economic inclusion plan in Saint Lucia. It also supports the reform in Grenada that would create an unemployment insurance programme and accompanying employment projects.

It is more crucial than ever to create solid social protection programmes that will be reimagined and redesigned to improve resilience, opportunity, and equity in the Caribbean area when all organisations join forces with the government and combine all available resources.