The JP "Expanding the social protection system for young men and women in the informal economy led by the International Labor Organization (ILO), in close collaboration with UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), held a virtual event to present the progress, achievements and future plans of the programme over the first year of implementation. The event was attended by Government officials from the Vice Presidency, the Ministries of Labor, Economic, and Social Inclusion and Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility; the Social Registry Unit and the Technical Secretariat Plan Toda Una Vida; as well as members of the Swiss Embassy and the Netherlands Consulate in Ecuador; and heads of the three agencies.
In Ecuador, young people face structural barriers to access the labour market, decent working conditions, and social protection services. According to the Economic and Social Inclusion Ministry, the problem is more persistent among young women, who are more vulnerable and have a higher poverty rate (24%) than young men (21%). Consequently, young men and women depend on a greater scale on informal activities fulfill their livelihood needs. Moreover, since the beginning of the pandemic in March until September of this year, 234,475 people have left the social security system, out of which 47% are between 21 and 30 years of age.
The JP’s coordinator, Daniela Arias, pointed out that the initiative seeks to incorporate young people between the ages of 18 and 29, who are in informality, to the social protection system and their access to decent work. The tools developed to this end focus on financially sustainable innovative contribution schemes that allow young people to join social security, mechanisms to accelerate the transition to formality, and local care services for young mothers and fathers who work in the informal economy.
Arias highlighted several milestones achieved, notably, the activities developed in collaboration with the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS by its acronym in Spanish) and the Ministry of Labor to develop the scheme that will help to incorporate young people into the social security system. In this context, the Programme has conducted studies and surveys to identify the problems young people face and how COVID-19 has affected their labor situation. Additionally, financial inclusion mechanisms for young men and women are being developed, for which a cooperation agreement has been signed with the Ecuadorian Central Bank.
The project is also working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Labor to promote access of young people to decent work. These initiatives include the strengthening of digital job search platforms and employment programs, the creation of a Best Practice Certification for companies that hire young people, and the assessment of training and educational needs that have emerged due to COVID-19.
Furthermore, the implementing agencies are working closely with the local governments of Loja, Machala, Quito, and Guayaquil to promote the creation of local care services, as well as in the institutionalization of training programs developed with the participation of employer organizations and civil society.
The next steps for 2021 include the design of the financial strategy to make the innovative scheme sustainable over time. Furthermore, the JP will implement the general registry of young people in informality, training and financial inclusion programs, and the pilots for the local care services model in the four cities.
Philippe Vanhuynegem, ILO’s Director for the Andean Countries, highlighted the importance of social protection as a tool to reduce inequality gaps. “Ecuador faces two significant challenges regarding this matter: to expand coverage of social security and the sustainability of the system,” he added. Similarly, Matilde Mordt, UNDP’s Representative, pointed out that the strengthening of social protection systems in the current context is crucial, as COVID-19 affected people who already were in vulnerability the most, and that the JP is in line with the United Nations' comprehensive response to address the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19, which includes the strengthening of social protection systems and employment protection. Finally, Bibiana Aído Almagro, Representative of UN Women in Ecuador, addressed the actions taken in favor of financial inclusion and education, and the design of care systems that take into account young parents' needs, as well as the gender mainstreaming approach present in each of the project’s component.
This programme’s inter-agency and multidisciplinary approach makes it possible to address the challenge of expanding the social protection system to young men and women from a comprehensive perspective. To this end, the JP seeks to develop solutions that can establish structural and long-term changes to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, Leaving No One Behind, and addressing the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19.