About the Social Protection Floor

Social Protection Floors (SPF) are nationally defined sets of at least four basic social security guarantees that ensure:

  • Essential health care, including maternity care, at a nationally defined minimum level that meets the criteria of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality;
  • Basic income security for children at a nationally defined minimum level, including access to nutrition, education, care, and any other necessary goods and services;
  • Basic income security at a nationally defined minimum level for persons of active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, in particular in the case of sickness, unemployment, maternity, and disability; and
  • Basic income security at a nationally defined minimum level for older persons.

Social Protection Floors should be nationally defined through social dialogue and allow people to live a life with dignity. Furthermore, the guarantees should be established by law and regularly monitored and evaluated.

The SPF concept was formally adopted in April 2009 when the United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB) endorsed the Social Protection Floor Initiative (SPF-I) as one of nine joint initiatives to respond to the global financial and economic crisis of 2008. Since then, many countries, with the support of international partners, have used the SPF concept to expand social protection coverage for their populations. Recently, in a letter issued on 24 March 2014, Helen Clark, Chair of the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), and Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO), have recognized these efforts and called on United Nations Country Teams to take specific steps to continue advancing this work.

Social protection floors do not define new rights; rather, they contribute to the realization of the human rights to social security and to social services, as delineated in Articles 22, 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 26 and 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, among other international legal instruments. The adoption of the SPF also encourages the observance of Convention 102 on Social Security (Minimum Standards) of the International Labour Organization (ILO). More recently, in 2012, the ILO Recommendation 202, ‘Concerning National Floors of Social Protection’ called on ILO Member States to establish national SPFs.