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Making the case for progressive universalism

The ILO's World Social Security Report 2010/2011

“Social security is a human right as well as a social and economic necessity.” That is the programmatic opening sentence of the ILO’s World Social Security Report (see reference). The Report conceptualises social security as a factor in alleviating poverty, in helping cope with risks, and in adapting to changing economic, political, demographic and societal circumstances. It emphasises the role of social security for income equality. And it advocates explicitly for national-level social protection floors. Gabriele Köhler reviews the Report.


By recalling the commitment – formulated in the 1944 Philadelphia Declaration of the ILO and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 – to provide a basic income for all, the authors make the case for “progressive universalism” (5) – starting with minimum social protection and gradually reaching higher levels of social security. It is thus a Report anchored in principles, and at the same time providing the evidence base so sought after to make policy advice convincing to decision makers facing political or financial constraints ...

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