Business & Finance

Raising Living Standards Boosts Overall Well-Being of Societies, Speakers Say, as Commission for Social Development Continues Session

Smart fiscal policies and minimum wages set well above the cost of living top the list of strategies countries can use to improve their populations’ health, happiness and overall well-being, said delegates today as the fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development continued.

Throughout the day, speakers emphasized the need to raise living standards above basic subsistence levels, allowing individuals to thrive and societies to flourish. Delegates shared their countries’ specific goals � from expanding quality education to improving pensions for ageing populations � and debated how wage policies, collective bargaining, income redistribution and other economic tools can help to achieve them. A discussion also emerged about the multifaceted nature of human well-being, with many speakers calling for policies aimed at rebuilding trust in Governments and boosting happiness.

Households should be able to afford housing, electricity, their children’s education and health insurance without going destitute, said the representative of Switzerland. Countries that invested public funds on peaceful purpose and rooted out corruption have shored up their people’s trust and laid a solid foundation for the future, she said, adding that her country remains vigilant about the risks of poverty and pays attention to its middle class. Emphasizing that job loss, divorce, retirement and illness should never push a person into poverty, she said Switzerland’s redistributive policies demonstrate the importance of promoting equal opportunities.

Mexico’s representative agreed that fiscal, wage and social protection policies have a major impact on all of society. Mexico’s newly elected Government remains committed to achieving the goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially eradicating poverty and building inclusive societies. Well-being goes beyond economics, she stressed, calling for an incorporation of the concept of happiness into discussions of well-being at the international level. The best way of leaving no one behind is to put them at the front, she said, adding that Mexico’s fiscal policies aim to protect and support the most vulnerable.

The representative of the Philippines, meanwhile, outlined his country’s two-tiered wage system, aimed at promoting productivity and gain-sharing. While the first tier sets the minimum wage above the poverty threshold, the second encourages workers and enterprises to voluntarily adopt productivity incentive schemes to improve business performance and yield higher gains � to be shared equitably by workers and management. Among other initiatives, the Philippines, alongside Canada and the Asian Development Bank, launched an employment facilitation programme assisting young people to find meaningful employment, he said.

Paraguay’s delegate described inclusive development � along with expanded integration into the global marketplace � as one of her country’s main goals. In that context, she outlined national efforts to assist people in overcoming poverty and bridging economic gaps. Aware that fiscal, wage and social protection policies are crucial in that regard, Paraguay implemented a national health insurance scheme and a programme to meet the housing needs of low-income families, she said, adding that reversing intergenerational poverty cycles is essential.

Finland’s delegate declared: Without good public policies, many people and population groups will be left behind. Warning that those who feel excluded can easily fall prey to politicians and movements that offer simple solutions to complex problems, he agreed with other speakers that economic growth does not automatically lead to well-being for all. In that context, he urged Member States to invest in people throughout their life cycles and advocated for the mobilization of domestic taxes. Finns are happy taxpayers, he said, noting that Finland’s population is pleased when its taxes are invested in education, health and social protection.

In the morning, the Commission held a Ministerial Forum on Social Protection.

Also speaking during the general debate were ministers, high-level Government officials, youth delegates and other representatives of Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Chile, Russian Federation, Romania, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Honduras, Thailand, Argentina, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Malawi, Netherlands, South Africa and Zambia.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 13 February, to continue its work programme.

Ministerial Forum on Social Protection

Moderated by Cheikh Niang (Senegal), the Chair of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission for Social Development, delegates exchanged views in a ministerial-level panel discussion, featuring Cynthia Mamle Morrison, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana; Liliana del Carmen la Rosa Huertas, Minister for Development and Social Inclusion of Peru; Sekai Irene Nzenza, Minister for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare of Zimbabwe; and Mohammad Shtayyeh, Minister for Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, State of Palestine.

Facilitating the dialogue as lead discussants were Valerie Schmitt, Deputy Director, Social Protection Department, International Labour Organization (ILO), and Rudi Delarue, Deputy Head, International Issues Unit, Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (EMPL), European Commission.

The Commission sought to find answers to questions as to what the opportunities and challenges are there to build social protection systems and how countries effectively have expanded the reach of those systems to include those left behind. Delegates also explored what innovative strategies are there to finance social protection, and how to secure social spending during an economic slowdown.

Mr. NIANG said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has inclusion at its core with the pledge to leave no one behind and reduction of inequality as a goal. Yet, income and wealth inequalities within countries are at an all-time high and, in many cases, continue to grow. According to the Report on the World Social Situation, 7 out of 10 people live in countries where income inequality has increased in the last three decades. Social protection has emerged as one of the key policy instruments to reduce inequality and poverty simultaneously, while also promoting inclusive growth.

Ms. MORRISON said that Ghana’s social protection policy outlines five flagship initiatives, including the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme (LEAP), School Feeding Programme, Health Insurance Scheme, Labour Intensive Public Work, and Education Capitation Grant. As to lessons learned, she said that eligibility criteria must be clearly spelled out to increase transparency and trust in the system, especially in Africa, where everything is seen with a political lens. Well-targeted social protection measures are critical. There is the critical need to identify, prioritize and select households living in vulnerable conditions. Resources must reach them. The provision of cash and in-kind transfers alone without necessary skills for income generation does not provide a sustained exit from poverty. Institutional strengthening is also a key pillar of social protection implementation. Challenges include inadequate funding to cover all extremely poor people, who constitute 8.2 per cent of the population. Ghana has not succeeded in achieving complementarities among existing programmes. None of the LEAP beneficiaries has exited from the programme since its inception in 2008.

Ms. LA ROSA HUERTAS said that her country is building an equitable social protection system towards universal coverage. It is doing so with urgency but gradually. Peru is a middle-income country but millions of its people are not covered by the social protection system and are at risk of falling into poverty. About a quarter of the population is not covered by health insurance. Many are in a situation of instability. However, social protection has reached 6.8 million people in 2018, including pensions for the persons over the age of 65, various cash and in-kind transfer programmes for vulnerable groups, as well as a health scheme to prevent teenage pregnancies. Peru is seeking to move from a minimalist policy towards universal social protection coverage. But in her country, three quarters of workers are in informal employment. So, the transformation towards formalizing employment is a long-term project which requires a change of culture and innovative solutions. Another challenge is financing universal social protection. Peru’s tax revenue is low. Corruption is eroding resources.

Ms. NZENZA said that Zimbabwe has been taking various measures to enhance the effectiveness of its social protection interventions, including introducing a quota system on access to land for women, which has resulted in females owning 29 per cent of property in the country. Zimbabwe has spent considerably on education, achieving the highest literacy rates in Africa. The introduction of a 5 per cent levy on cell phone airtime raises $4 million every month for the procurement of essential drugs. The bi-monthly cash transfer programme covers 40,000 vulnerable households. Nearly 600,000 households are among the recipients of the country’s food assistance programme. More than 25,000 vulnerable groups and individuals had access to medical services in 2018. The launch of microfinance banks helps women and youth in their income generation activities. It also introduced a compulsory national social security pension scheme for retirees, persons with disabilities and elderly people.

Mr. SHTAYYEH said that Palestinian territories are undergoing the challenges caused by foreign occupation. Israel wants Palestine’s economy to be weak. Most people in Gaza depend on assistance from outside. Palestine is seeking to reduce the impact of inequality by seeking to improve education and create jobs. His Government is interested in forming partnerships with the private sector to address unemployment and empower women and youth. Palestine is in the process of establishing a system of social protection consisting of three elements, including a pension scheme, cash assistance for the poorest, and greater social services for housing, food and energy. Palestine has a good track record in combating poverty through policy, helping people break out of that cycle. His State has many laws to protect vulnerable groups, including children and minors, as well as disabled and older persons. The objective of leaving no one behind cannot be achieved if Palestine continues to suffer from the seizure of its resources. Gaza is deprived of all resources. Palestinians have no access to Jerusalem, their capital. The international community must end Israeli occupation. Palestinians need bread but they need dignity, freedom and independence.

Ms. SCHMITT, noting that ILO is celebrating its 100th anniversary, said that social protection has always been among the agency’s mandates and that this year provides a good opportunity to reaffirm the need for social justice through social protection. She noted the 2012 adoption of its Social Protection Floors Recommendation as a milestone for boosting social security standards globally and to making social security a reality for all. Yet, a majority of people who work in the informal economy enjoy only limited social protection, with 4 billion people estimated to be excluded from any form of social protection. This is not acceptable from a human rights point of view and it is a missed opportunity from the development point of view. She stressed the need for universal social protection coverage. Some countries have already achieved it. Expanding coverage to all is feasible. ILO supports expansion of social protection in 60 countries.

Mr. DELARUE pointed out that half the world’s population is not covered by social protection. The European Union seeks to mainstream social protection in its policies. Outlining several measures such as pension, high-quality education and the fight against exclusion, he underscored the need that everyone should be covered against social risks. For instance, child and family support can reduce poverty. Indeed, social protection has proven to be an effective tool to address the shocks of financial and economic crises. The Union is in the process of adopting a recommendation on access to social protection to ensure that all workers have access to social protection, including those outside standard employment. The bloc supports universal social protection coverage and has provided technical support to 138 countries since 2013.

In the ensuing dialogue between panellists and delegates, the representative of Argentina underscored the need to consider the complexity of poverty in all its human dimensions, while France’s delegate cited some new initiatives, such as the 30 per cent increase in subsidies for babysitters of single-parent families as well as a 35 per cent increase in assistance to the elderly to increase their purchasing power.

Statements from the floor included questions asked by representatives of non-governmental organizations and the representative of Finland regarding fiscal policy to expand social protection, the correlation between microeconomic stability and social spending, and how countries learn best practices.

Ms. NZENZA said that in Zimbabwe, each of the 10 provinces was allocated $31 million in 2019 as part of devolution of powers from central Government to localities.

Ms. MORRISON said Ghana’s social expenditure includes giving money to the poor, and access to food and other services. For instance, nearly 2 million children a day receive free hot meals provided by local farmers, who earn their income by doing so.

Mr. SHTAYYEH said that progressive taxation in favour of the poor has proven to be effective social protection measure not just in Palestine but elsewhere. Macroeconomic growth leads to greater tax revenue. Creating jobs and skills training are also vital.

Ms. LA ROSA HUERTAS said that in Peru, 48 languages, including many indigenous languages, are spoken, and her country has built a paradigm of solidarity and harmony with nature. Corruption undermines the country’s opportunities for development.

Mr. NIANG said that today’s panel discussion was productive and meaningful, urging delegates to take lessons home and apply them to help implement the Sustainable Development Goals in their own countries.

General Debate

SEKAI IRENE NZENZA (Zimbabwe) said that a 20 per cent quota of land is reserved for women under the nation’s land reform programme, enabling women to apply for agricultural property. Currently, 29 per cent of women in her country are proud owners of land in their individual right. This is significant as women constitute 80 per cent of the work force and derive their livelihood from the agricultural sector. Zimbabwe has always prioritized education since its independence in 1980, resulting in gender parity in primary school enrolment. The Government has been paying school fees for 583,547 children in more than 42,000 households. In 2018, 7,868 youths trained at 42 vocational training centres. Apprenticeship programmes have also been introduced to reduce youth unemployment. Cash transfer programmes and the National Action Plan for orphans, vulnerable children, the elderly, the persons with disabilities, those with chronical illness and child-headed households has provided critical social security for these vulnerable groups.

PAULINE IRENE NGUENE, Minister for Social Affairs of Cameroon, said that her country’s social protection policy is in line with the 2030 Agenda. As an emerging democracy, it is vital that wealth is equally distributed. Welcoming the theme of the Commission’s 2019 session, she said her Government is seeking to put a human face on policies for the benefit of vulnerable groups. It has created a strategy through 2035 to combat social exclusion and poverty, including wage and fiscal policies and access to social services, such as water, health and energy. It has broadened the scope of social protection to expand its reach. In social protection, Cameroon has adopted a strategy focusing on the most vulnerable groups. Women and youth are among the targets. The establishment of a triannual plan for youth has helped increase that segment’s integration in the labour market. Also in place is an employment plan that trains women and girls in trade and education.

SEBASTIAN VILLARREAL, Vice-Minister for Social Development of Chile, said his Government is committed to leaving no one behind. Progress has been made but significant challenges remain. Worldwide, 1.8 billion people are above 60 years old, and in Chile, 3.5 million people are in this age group. And by 2050, 6 million people, or 30 per cent of the population, will be older persons. This change will have enormous impacts on society, health and pension programmes. Chile promotes healthy and positive ageing, which is a paradigm shift. In 2018, a better adults programme was adopted to create cities and services friendly to older people. Healthy life promotes active participation of older people in political and other activities. Chile also have inclusive policies for youth and indigenous peoples. The planned constitutional recognition of these peoples will further advance their rights. A labour quota system for persons with disabilities has also been launched.

ALEXEY CHERKASOV, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation, echoed calls to protect labour rights and increase State expenditures on medical care and quality education. The Russian Federation has made strides in increasing the minimum wage and introducing limits on wage gaps between workers and managers. Limits have also been put in place on managerial severance benefits. A main national goal is to raise standards of living and create new opportunities for individuals to flourish, he said, outlining policies aimed at strengthening financial support for families and children, providing childcare and assisting parents to transition to new kinds of work. Meanwhile, other programmes aim to improve living conditions for older generations, including by providing annual preventive care medical visits and long-term care. Moreover, the Russian Federation seeks to cut its poverty rate by a factor of two by 2024. As expanding State social assistance to those in vulnerable situations is crucial, the Government has established a registry to determine and support those most in need, he said.

GIL BELTRAN (Philippines) said that as of October 2018, the country’s employment rate stood at 94.9 per cent. The two-tiered wage system defines the policy space for minimum-wage-setting and the strategy for promoting productivity and gain-sharing. The first tier is an approach to set the minimum wage above the poverty threshold. The second tier is a strategy to encourage the workers and enterprises to voluntarily and jointly adopt productivity incentive schemes to improve business performance and yield higher gains to be fairly and equitably shared by workers and management. About 107,260 workers in the informal sector have social insurance coverage. The Philippines partnered with Canada and the Asian Development Bank to launch an employment facilitation programme that seeks to assist young people start their careers and find meaningful paid employment. Under the Youth Development Plan 2017-2022, youth are guaranteed participation in the areas of health, education, economic empowerment, social inclusion and equality, governance, active citizenship, peacebuilding and security, the environment and global mobility.

NICEA MERGEANI, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Justice, ADNRADA BABA and AURLIAN MOHAN, youth delegates, of Romania, said in a joint statement that their country provides opportunities and resources for the full participation of vulnerable persons in the economic, social and cultural life of society as well as in the decision-making process concerning their lives and their access to fundamental rights. The fight against poverty and social exclusion continues to be a national priority. Employment policies have a particularly important role in tackling inequality and ensuring social inclusion. The Government seeks to create an inclusive labour market. Romania’s youth are developing two online platforms to persuade local leaders to create youth councils and to join the World Urban Youth Councils Network of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to connect various stakeholders with the aim of nurturing youth. Young people are a nation’s future, but it is insufficient to talk about it. They must be involved in building their own future.

OLEKSANDRA CHURKINA, Deputy Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine, outlined numerous measures taken to improve social protection, including the promotion of productive employment and labour market reform. Pension provision is the main part of social protection and involves unemployable elderly persons, persons with disabilities and persons who have lost their wage earner. State benefits for families is divided into universal social payments and targeted benefits to low-income households. About 2.1 million families receive State social benefits in Ukraine, which is 38 per cent of all families with children under the age of 18 there. Annually, it’s 13.8 per cent of the State budget expenditure. As for the protection of children’s rights, the Government approved baby boxes including essential items, such as nappies and clothes, as a one-time assistance for newborns.

HALBIBI TACHJANOVA, Deputy Minister for Labour and Social Welfare of Turkmenistan, said her Government is working to increase the population’s welfare and establish a strong foundation for broad social inclusion. In addition, it prioritizes protecting the environment and its ecosystems and has appointed an ombudsman to defend and promote the rights of citizens. In 2016, a new national plan was implemented to combat the phenomenon of human trafficking. Meanwhile, new strategies to promote gender equality and protect the rights of the child have also been put in place. Turkmenistan’s labour policies aim to increase productivity, combat unemployment and provide greater and better job opportunities, she said, adding that efforts are under way to deliver better social services and build up national infrastructure by 2020.

REINALDO SANCHEZ (Honduras), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, agreed that fiscal policies should play a role in reversing inequality and promoting social inclusion. Development policies must aim to leave no on behind, he said, noting that Honduras’ middle-term plan for 2018-2022 lays out the broad contours of its strategies for economic growth, inclusion, human rights protection, food security, environmental conservation and territorial development. Cash and in-kind transfer programmes such as the Better Life Bonus aim to reduce poverty, he said, adding that while extreme poverty rates dropped in recent years they remain higher than in many other countries. A national macrofiscal framework seeks to develop a high-quality tax system that will diversify the economy and combat illicit financial flows. Underlining the importance of investing in education and health care, he said work is under way to expand health care and gradually establish universal coverage.

PORAMETEE VIMOLSIRI (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that among his Government’s work to nationalize the 2030 Agenda it has implemented disciplined fiscal policies and expenditure plans. The goal is to upgrade social welfare for all throughout the lifecycle, while providing special assistance to children, youth, women, older persons, persons with disabilities, the poor and other vulnerable groups. Since 2015, Thailand has been implementing a child support grant scheme which provides cash assistance to poor and at-risk children monthly. In the last 25 years, the country has expanded its basic education and closed the gap in school attendance between socioeconomic groups. Noting that the gross enrolment rate in primary education now stands at 98 per cent for both boys and girls, he went on to outline efforts to support Thailand’s expanding older population. For example, specific programmes target diseases concurrent with population ageing, senior employment, retirement savings and State welfare schemes for older persons, among other things.

GABRIELA AGOSTO, Executive Secretary of the National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies of Argentina, said her country is tackling inequality and social exclusion through fiscal wage and social protection policies, and is committed to implement the 2030 Agenda. Reducing poverty is a priority for the Government. It is vital to design inclusive social policy for all, providing resources for them to fulfil their basic social rights throughout their life cycle. Argentina’s social policy has three pillars � minimum wage, improvement of the quality of family life and schemes to lift people out of the cycle of poverty. The first three years of life are vital for the attainment of rights for children. In 2016, the Government launched an early childhood assistance programme for those in vulnerable situations. Argentina spends more on social policy than in any other area. Horizontal and vertical coordination is necessary for a federal State like hers.

SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said that his country’s President is about to implement a new minimum wage for public sector workers in addition to a salary increase for police and the settlement of pension of retired soldiers. A school meal programme reached 8.51 million children in 47,299 primary schools as of August 2018. The programme’s benefits trickled to 90,670 cooks and enhanced capital income of rural farmers in various local communities. A total of $10.7 million has been disbursed to 386,000 beneficiaries from all 36 states in the country. A cash transfer scheme disburses a monthly stipend to the poor. Nigeria is enhancing and finetuning its national policy on ageing with inputs from all stakeholders. It also sets aside 5 per cent of positions in the public sector for persons with disabilities.

ROCIO PEREZ MENDOZA (Mexico) underlined the impact of fiscal, wage and social protection policies on the well-being of all of society. Mexico’s new Government remains committed to achieving the 2030 Agenda and its goals of eradicating poverty and building inclusive societies. Well-being goes beyond economics, she stressed, calling for an incorporation of the concept of happiness into conceptions of well-being at the global level. The best way of leaving no one behind is to put them at the front, she said, adding that Mexico’s fiscal policies aim to protect and support the most vulnerable. The Commission, working closely with the Economic and Social Council’s high-level political forum, can help to ensure all voices are heard and all rights defended. She also welcomed the Commission’s focus on youth � spotlighting Mexico’s own youth-related policies, including a public�private partnership that allows companies to host and train young people � as well as its focus on older persons and persons with disabilities. In addition, she urged delegations to consider the validity of intergovernmental bodies that have been overtaken by reality and the Commission’s own role going forward.

MAGINO CORPORA�N LORENZO (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said his Government prioritizes the needs and rights of youth, older persons and persons with disabilities. In 2018, it presented its national voluntary report on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, which outlined its policies aimed at eradicating poverty, boosting economic growth and improving the population’s social inclusion. Among other things, he outlined strategies aimed at providing older persons with an income based on compensatory working hours and increasing their leadership in communities. We are moving towards a paradigm shift in the social inclusion of persons with disability, based around the principle of universal accessibility, he said. Meanwhile, in the judiciary, a protocol is being developed to ensure access to justice for persons with disabilities. He also outlined various programmes targeting young people, including through the establishment of youth support centres.

Mr. CUENI (Switzerland) echoed calls for expanded social protection floors, which can be implemented in various economic systems and tailored to countries’ different levels of development. Governing well requires spending public money on peaceful purposes and rooting out sources of corruption. Countries that have made progress along that path have shored up their people’s trust and laid a solid foundation for the future, he said, adding that Switzerland remains vigilant about the risks of poverty and pays attention to its middle class. Households should be able to afford housing, electricity, their children’s education and health insurance without going destitute, he stressed. Job loss, divorce, retirement and illness should not push a person into poverty. In that context, Switzerland has demonstrated the redistributive role of taxes and social security and works to promote equal opportunity among its people. While it has no minimum wage, collective bargaining agreements often stipulate one. In addition, a pension system reform is working to combat inequality between generations.

YOSHIAKI KATAYAMA, Official, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, said that it is necessary to distinguish the role of the Commission to avoid overlap with the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. High levels of inequality undermine sustainable development, he said, stressing the importance of social security systems, including guarantees of access to health and education services, in preventing vulnerable people from falling into poverty. Japan promotes universal health coverage and formed a Group of Friends towards the high-level General Assembly meeting on that topic in September. Healthy ageing and sustainable growth are a challenge for many countries. Japan will continue to share its own experiences. Japan also created a strategy on the quality of learning and launched a Group of Friends on education and life-long learning. Later in 2019, Japan will host the World Assembly for Women, the Group of 20 Summit and the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

MIE HENRIETTE ERIKSEN, Head of Division, Law and International, Ministry for Children and Social Affairs of Denmark, said her country’s social programmes are tax financed, allowing broad universal coverage. Only 5 per cent of adults with disabilities are currently employed. Denmark therefore devised a national action plan to increase employment of persons with disabilities. With support from the Parliament, the Government is implementing 11 initiatives to increase the participation of persons with disabilities in the labour market, including a knowledge platform with necessary information about hiring those people and how to address typical challenges. Another initiative helps matchmaking for employers and employees with disabilities by introducing a personal competency card that lists their skills.

MARK KAMPERHOFF (Germany), joined by his country’s youth delegates, ANTONIA KUHN and LUKAS G. SCHLAPP, said reducing inequality requires redistribution expenditure on basic services, respect and protection for workers’ rights and minimum wages set above the living wage. Calling for cross-sectoral approaches to implementing those elements, he said 71 per cent of the world population has no access � or inadequate access � to social protection. In response, countries and United Nations agencies have come together under the Global Partnership for Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, or USP2030. Welcoming the partnership, he said it should grow from a campaign of voluntary engagement into a long-term, sustainable initiative.

Ms. KUHN and Mr. SCHLAPP said they represent 16 million young people in Germany, many of whom are underestimated and suffer from age-based discrimination. It is ageism when social security benefits can only be accessed by people who have already been employed in the past, this excludes those searching for their first job. Ageism affects both young and older people, preventing them from fully contributing to society, while unpaid internships represent another structural barrier for the young. While internships have almost become a prerequisite for employment, they only serve to extend existing inequalities as they can only be considered by young people from cities and wealthy backgrounds. In that context, they proposed the application of stronger regulations on internships designed to make them more accessible to the diversity of young people.

ANA ROLON (Paraguay), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the objectives enshrined in the 2030 Agenda. Among Paraguay’s national goals are inclusive economic and social development, as well as expanded integration into the global marketplace. We are banking on a new institutionality developed in line with those objectives, she said, outlining efforts to assist people in overcoming poverty and bridging economic gaps. As fiscal, wage and social protection policies are crucial in that regard, Paraguay has implemented a national health insurance scheme and a programme to meet the housing needs of low-income families. All those aim to reverse intergenerational poverty cycles, she said, underlining the importance of creating a more cohesive society.

MCCALLUM M.M. SIBANDE (Malawi), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, outlined some of his country’s legislative and policy measures aimed at lifting those at the low end of the economic ladder. Malawi pursues an ambitious agenda of economic and social development focused on social protection as one of its key elements. The country’s second Growth and Development Strategy, for example, highlights the need to reduce inequality, extreme poverty and food insecurity through economic development, enhanced productivity and a social safety net. Listing some specific programmes, he drew attention to cash transfers, farm input subsidies, vocational skills training, microfinancing and affordable housing initiatives. The overall goal of these programmes is to empower the beneficiaries so that they move out of poverty and become productive members of society, he said. Measures have also been implemented to curb inflation, reduce interest rates and increase both the minimum wage and the non-taxable income band for the lowest-paid employees.

Youth delegates of the Netherlands said that the future is not something that we enter but we create. Education and access to it is vital. Many refugee children do not have access to education. They are a lost generation because they lost hope for their career aspirations. Obstacles for refugee children must be overcome with tailor-made strategies. The relevant United Nations agencies must cooperate with grassroot organizations. Intergenerational inequality is a reality. The voices of youth should carry the same weight as those of the older generations. Young people are capable only when they are given opportunities to show their talent.

MZOLISI TONI, Acting Director-General, Department of Social Development of South Africa, said the Commission’s priority theme is an important one for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Since the dawn of democracy in his country, the Government has dedicated resources to social protection based on human rights. Its programmes provide significant relief for millions of its citizens, including those with disabilities. It is impossible to address inequality without meeting the needs of women. Promoting health care and school enrolment can help people get out of intergenerational poverty. His country’s President chaired the ILO meeting on the future of work recently and launched a national youth employment plan. Minimum wage has been agreed on and will be reviewed annually. Achieving universal health coverage is key to social development. His delegation supports the African Union Vision 2063 and welcomes African Union-United Nations cooperation.

KAI SAUER (Finland), associating himself with the European Union, said economic growth does not automatically lead to well-being for all. Without good public policies, many people and population groups will be left behind, he said, adding that those who feel excluded can easily fall prey to politicians and movements that offer simple solutions to complex problems. Finland is studying the long-term impacts of poverty and deprivation on children, with results indicating that those who experience deprivation in childhood are more likely to have lower incomes and mental challenges later in life. Urging Member States to invest in all children, as well as adults throughout the life cycle, he stressed that Finns are happy taxpayers. Outlining his country’s tax policies, he said its people � the happiest in the world � are pleased when their taxes are invested in education, health and social protection. Finland also launched a new multi stakeholder initiative that sets well-being as its goal and the economy as a tool to achieve it. The Commission, for its part, should serve as a forum to discuss decent work and the universal right to social protection.

CHRISTINE KALAMWINA (Zambia), associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China and the African Group, said that, despite her nation’s high recent growth rate, much of its population still works in the informal sector and more than half live in poverty. That rate is even higher � 76 per cent � in rural and remote areas. In response, Zambia and its partners have implemented such policies as social assistance, social security, livelihood and empowerment, protection from disability and others. A social cash transfer scheme and an income redistribution plan have proven effective in reducing poverty, with the former now being scaled up to reach some 700,000 households � about 4.2 million individuals � by the end of 2019. Outlining other kinds of support, she spotlighted a school feeding programme and another known as Keeping Girls in School. Under that plan, more than 20,000 girls have received education support in the form of school fees. In addition, 75,000 women are being targeted with entrepreneurship training.

Source: United Nations