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SDGAcademyX: Making Universal Social Protection a Reality

This course provides an introduction to social protection, covering different issues including the human right to social security, the need for social protection over the life cycle, the process of building universal social protection systems and the key role of social protection in confronting the major challenges that the world is facing.

4 weeks
2–4 hours per week
Progress at your own speed
Access to course at no cost

There is one session available:

After a course session ends, it will be archivedOpens in a new tab.
Starts Dec 8

About this course

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Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security (Art. 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), regardless of where they live or who they are, simply because they are human beings. Yet, only 46.9 per cent of the global population are effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit, while the remaining 53.1 per cent are left entirely unprotected. This means that despite the progress made in many countries of expanding provisions, 4.1 billion people must still fend for themselves when their health, incomes or jobs are at risk, instead of all people standing together in solidarity and collectively ensuring that no one is unprotected. Even fewer people enjoy comprehensive protection against the whole range of risks and challenges which may occur over the life cycle, such as maternity, raising children, sickness, unemployment and disability benefits, old-age pensions as well as social health protection. Such comprehensive protection is needed for a dignified life, through entitlements solidly anchored in national law, providing people with peace of mind secure in the knowledge they can access adequate benefits and services if and when they need them.

In addition to being a human right, social security is a socio-economic necessity. It prevents or at least alleviates poverty and reduces vulnerability, social exclusion and inequality. From an economic standpoint, a healthier and better-educated workforce is more productive, supporting inclusive and sustainable growth. Social protection stimulates aggregate demand during economic recessions, thereby acting as an economic stabilizer, and facilitates and smoothens structural transformations, for instance from carbon-intensive to carbon-free sectors, by ensuring that workers have adequate support during these transitions.

This MOOC provides an introduction to social protection, its main concepts, needs for social protection and coverage over the life cycle, the basics of the design and implementation of social protection systems, including floors, and the central role of social protection in confronting the major challenges that the world is facing.

The MOOC enables learners to understand the key social protection concepts and the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to social protection. It also provides participants with critical insights into policy options and social protection strategies in the context of decent work and general socio-economic development.

This course provides a useful resource for policy makers, social partners, civil society organizations, development actors, university students and others who may or may not be directly involved in social protection issues but who work or are likely to work in a related field such as development cooperation, public finances, economic and social development, rural development, environmental issues, etc.

This MOOC has been produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in collaboration with the French National Social Security School ( l’Ecole nationale supérieure de Sécurité sociale or EN3S). It builds on ILO knowledge and field experience on the development of universal social protection systems based on the application of international social security standards, particularly the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), and the Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202).

At a glance

  • Language: English
  • Video Transcript: English
  • Associated skills: Social Development, Environmental Issue, French Language, Cooperation, Vulnerability, Postpartum Care, Public Finance, Social Security, Rural Development

What you'll learn

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By the end of this course, participants will understand:

  • what the human right to social security entails and the state of social protection coverage around the world;

  • the concept of universal social protection and how countries ensure that everyone have access to health care and income guarantee over the life cycle;

  • how countries design, implement and manage their social protection systems; and

  • the role of social protection to face the current challenges of a world in transformation.

Introduction: Universal social protection at the crossroads

A brief introduction and rationale for the course.

Module 1: Social protection: A human right, but not a reality yet all over the world

Discusses on what the right to social security entails and why no society or economy can expect to prosper without social protection.

  • Chapter 1. Social protection: A human right, socio-economic necessity and cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Chapter 2. Social protection around the world: Who is covered against what, how and where?

Module 2: Universal social protection over the life cycle

Explains the concept of universal social protection and examines the protection over the complete life cycle.

  • Chapter 1. Building comprehensive social protection systems with a solid social protection floor.
  • Chapter 2. Social health protection and access to health care without hardship for all.
  • Chapter 3. Social protection for families.
  • Chapter 4. Social protection and risks during the working life.
  • Chapter 5. Social protection during old age.
  • Chapter 6. Long-term care.

Module 3: From social protection policies to solid and inclusive social protection systems.

Focuses on the process of building and maintaining inclusive and solid universal social protection systems.

  • Chapter 1. A shared vision to build social protection systems.
  • Chapter 2. Ensuring gender-responsiveness and disability-inclusiveness.
  • Chapter 3. Financing social protection.
  • Chapter 4. Coordination within and beyond social protection systems.
  • Chapter 5. Good governance of social protection systems.

Module 4: Social protection in a changing world

Analyses social protection in the light of the major forces that have been reconfiguring the world.

  • Chapter 1. Making work decent.
  • Chapter 2. Social protection across countries.
  • Chapter 3. Social protection and climate change.
  • Chapter 4. Social protection at the crossroads: Shaping the future of social protection.

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