International Conference on Social Security and Economic Development

Event: Social Justice and Trade Unions

From September 21st to 23rd, 2016, international experts met in Beijing to discuss the relationship between social security and economic development. The China Association of Social Security (CAoSS), the International Labour Organization (ILO), Country Office China and Mongolia and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Beijing Office hosted the conference as the inaugural event for one-year a research project on the topic area.

The two-and-a half day conference agenda covered a range of areas related to the question on how to positively align the development of social security with economic development. Two keynote speeches served the purpose of enabling a suitable approach to the field – historical development, theoretical approaches and current trends. Country studies both in China as well as in other countries in the world, namely the USA, Great Britain, Germany, France, Denmark/Nordic Countries, Japan and South Korea as well as the multinational level were covered.

The experts discussed how international experiences could function as lessons learned – positive just as negative ones – for China and its emerging social security system. This is also the focus of a one-year research project jointly conducted by CAoSS, ILO China and Mongolia Country Office and FES Office Beijing. Current developments and future trends in the Chinese case were also discussed in great depth with well-known Chinese scholars in the field. Pension, health care, welfare and social assistance were just a few systems that were touched upon.

A few main arguments shall be echoed here:

  • The experts agreed that it is of high importance for the future development of social security in many countries that it is in line with economic realities as both are well and inseparably connected. However, social security shall not be narrowed down on this as the prime motive of social security schemes has to be the well-being and dignity of the people.
  • Inequality and poverty are among the greatest challenges for humanity and social security. Sensible labor market policies need to be put in place to tackle those risks. One participant of the conference concluded that one needs two “G”s in order to assess economic success: GDP is one, but also the Gini-coefficient measuring inequality is central in order to judge the performance of an economy.
  • Growing inequality as well as poverty among children and the elderly can become an endurance test for governments around the world. Internal and external migration flows can further contribute to the fragmentation of societies. Well and less well secured groups of people are more likely to get into conflict with each other, potentially endangering social and political stability.
  • The experts were also united on the topic that states should not enter competition races to the bottom with respect to certain regulatory areas as well as policies on social security, taxation and labor market policies. They should rather cooperate in these areas and leave it primarily to companies to compete.

The international conference marked the beginning of the above-mentioned research project on the relationship between social security and economic development. The research project will last for one year; a policy paper on social security and economic development in China with recommendations from international case studies will function as the main product and outcome.

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