Toolkit on the Right to Social Security

The right to social security is the right to access and maintain benefits, whether in cash or in kind, without discrimination in order to secure protection, inter alia, from (a) lack of work-related income caused by sickness, disability, maternity, employment injury, unemployment, old age, or death of a family member; (b) unaffordable access to health care; (c) insufficient family support, particularly for children and adult dependents. – Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment 19

Key elements of the right to social security

- Availability: The right to social security requires, for its implementation, that a system, whether composed of a single scheme or variety of schemes, is available and in place to ensure that benefits are provided for the relevant social risks and contingencies.

Adequacy: Benefits, whether in cash or in kind, must be adequate in amount and duration in order that everyone may realize his or her rights to family protection and assistance, an adequate standard of living and adequate access to health care.

Affordability: If a social security scheme requires contributions, those contributions should be stipulated in advance. The direct and indirect costs and charges associated with making contributions must be affordable for all, and must not compromise the realization of other Covenant rights.

Accessibility: All persons should be covered by the social security system, especially individuals belonging to the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups, without discrimination on any of the grounds prohibited. Social security services must be affordable, and should have physical access.

For more about key concepts on the right to social security, see:

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 19

 A man lights candles in tribute torture victims in Chile © EPA/Claudio ReyesThe impact of austerity measures on ESCR, E/2013/82; 2013 
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Publications & tools


International Labour Organization

Documents relevant to the right social security

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights

Mechanisms dealing with right to social security

Treaty Bodies


Other sources