About the Social Protection Floor

A Social Protection Floor (SPF) is the first level of a comprehensive national social protection system. It is comprised of:


Universal access to essential services (such as health, education, housing, water and sanitation and other services, as nationally defined);

Social transfers in cash or in kind, to ensure income security, food security, adequate nutrition, and access to essential services.


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. The continued relevance of social protection, both as a right and as a means to ensure long-term development, has transformed the SPF into a widely pertinent policy approach.

In the interest of realizing individuals’ human rights to social security and essential social services, countries that adopt the SPF develop nationally defined strategies for the progressive realization and sustainability of national social protection floors as well as higher levels of social protection. Building on existing social protection mechanisms, these strategies may include a mix of interventions - contributory and non-contributory, targeted and universal, public and private instruments, etc. - that is appropriate to the national social, economic and political context of a given country.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution when implementing the Social Protection Floor.

The Social Protection Floor does not define new rights; rather, it contributes 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).