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Mothers and children need more, not less, social protection

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 5:00 AM

As several countries around the world celebrate Mother's Day today, two new International Labour Organisation ( ILO) studies provide new global and country data that point to the urgent need to increase social protection for mothers and children.

GENEVA (ILO News) - The lack of access to social protection is still a reality for a large number of mothers and children worldwide, according to two studies released by the ILO.

The Social Protection for Maternity: Key Policy Trends and Statistics report shows that only 36 per cent of employed women are legally entitled to cash benefits during their maternity leave.

In practice, however, maternity leave legislation is not implemented effectively, so only 28 per cent of working women are covered in case of maternity.

The study, Social Protection for Children: Key Policy Trends and Statistics, also paints a worrying picture. It shows that while there has been an explosion of small cash transfer schemes in recent years, there is also a considerable gap with regard to the availability of adequate child and family benefits.

According to the study, 108 countries have specific child and family benefit programmes rooted in legislation, but they often cover small groups.

"Around 800 women die from childbirth every day. In addition, 18,000 children also pass away daily. The sad reality is that despite efforts carried out as part of the Millennium Development Goals process, maternal and child mortality rates in developing countries are still very high," says Isabel Ortiz, director of the ILO Social Protection Department.

"Most of these deaths are preventable with adequate social protection. Universal maternal and child health care is key to reducing high mortality rates, together with cash transfers to ensure adequate food, clothing, and access to social services," she adds.

Fiscal adjustment

reducing social

protection for

mothers and children

A worrying trend is that in some countries, the levels of maternity and child protection benefits have dropped as a result of fiscal-consolidation policies.

For example, several European countries have reduced the level of maternity and child benefits or have limited the level of coverage.

"Fiscal consolidation and adjustment measures threaten progress on social protection for children and their families," says Ortiz.

"Child poverty increased in 18 of the 28 countries of the European Union between 2008 and 2013."