Social Security

The fundamental human right to social security remains unfulfilled for a vast majority of the world’s population, including in the Arab States. Indeed, the Arab States region faces a plethora of challenges such as relatively high labour market informality, low female labour market participation, political instability, conflict, internal displacement and refugee crisis, all of which place significant strain on the capacity of national social protection systems to provide adequate protection from rising poverty and vulnerability. Most social insurance schemes in the region cover only public and private sector workers with regular contracts. Non-contributory social assistance schemes, such as cash transfers, tend to be narrow in coverage, fragmented, and weakly coordinated with contributory schemes. As part of its mandate to further social protection, the ILO is works closely with its tripartite constituents to address those the afore mentioned challenges and support its partners to move towards rights-based and inclusive social protection systems that can drive for peace and prosperity in the region.
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Facts & Figures

  • Countries in the Arab States region spend an average of 2.5 per cent of GDP on social protection excluding health, though with significant regional variation.
  • Less than a third of the region’s labour force contributes to social security on average across the Arab States
  • Jordan and Saudi Arabia maintain the highest regional average pension coverage (51 percent) other GCC countries have considerably lower coverage rates due to the high numbers of foreign workers, mainly from Southern Asia and South-Eastern Asia, who do not enjoy social security coverage
  • Coverage rates for women are often under half of those for men with young women fairing even worse: their labour force participation rate amounts to only 13.5 percent, while unemployment among young women stands at 49 percent.
  • Only 27 percent of the region’s senior citizens receive old age pensions.
  • Average legal coverage of pension systems for the population of the Arab States is nearly 46 percent while coverage for women is only at 34.8 percent.
  • Jordan is the sole country in the Arab States, that ratified ILO’s convention on Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention, 1952 (No. 102), in February 2014.
  • Most countries in the Arab State with Jordan as an exception, do not have maternity insurance schemes in place, and the burden to pay the salary during maternity leave rests with the employer.
  • Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have established unemployment insurance schemes. Oman and the United Arab Emirates are in the process of setting-up such a scheme for private sector workers.
Source: ILO