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Article 9: The right to social security.

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance.

Article 9 guarantees social security and social insurance to both men and women. The Committee has defined "social security" in General Comment No. 6 to cover "all the risks involved in the loss of means of subsistence beyond a person's control." (40) Article 9 requires States to offer security schemes in areas such as old-age insurance and benefits, disability benefits, survivors' and orphans' benefits, employment injury and occupational disease benefits, medical care and maternity benefits, unemployment benefits, and family benefits.

The Committee requires a State to take deliberate, concrete, and targeted steps toward the goal of achieving minimum essential levels of the right to social security and social insurance. This must be done to the maximum of the State's available resources. (2) Thus, for example, a State is in violation of its Article 9 obligation if a significant number of women are deprived of essential food, shelter, and medical care that social security and social insurance could provide. Resource scarcity does not relieve a State from progressive realization of these minimum core obligations in implementing Article 9 rights. (3)

The Committee has addressed social security rights of persons with disabilities and older persons. In General Comment No. 5, the Committee stated that States must ensure provision of adequate income support to persons with disabilities, and it extended that requirement to cover persons ("who are overwhelmingly women") who care for such persons. (4) In General Comment No. 6, the Committee held that States must enact national laws to establish general regimes of compulsory old-age insurance, with a retirement age that is flexible, depending upon the occupation, working ability of elderly persons, and other demographic, economic, and social factors. (5) Article 3 further requires that the compulsory retirement age for men and women be equalized and that women and men have equal access to all rights protected by Article 9.

The Committee monitors the level of social insurance coverage in the State's population. The Committee has expressed concern that many States, especially developing countries, do not provide adequate social security and social insurance, or that they do not provide the same rights to social security and pension benefits for women as for men. (7) This is of particular concern in situations where the State is transferring responsibility for these matters to the private sector. (8) In addition, the Committee has urged States to take steps to reduce the high number of persons working in informal sectors with no social security benefits or to provide such workers with these benefits and ensure that the existing social security system includes all employees. (9)

Questions to ask:

1. Are women entitled to social security or social insurance on an equal basis with men? Are workers in the informal, temporary, part-time, or seasonal work force entitled to social security or social insurance? What impact do these policies have on women?

2. Has the State adopted a general regime of compulsory old-age insurance? Does the State provide non-contributory old-age benefits and other assistance for all persons, regardless of their sex, on attaining the retirement age specified in national legislation? Is the retirement age the same for women as for men? What is the policy concerning payments to women and men in view of their different life expectancies?

3. Do benefits based on the length of employment take into account time taken for pregnancy, childbirth, and/or child rearing? Are the benefits need-based? If so, how is need determined?

4. Are people not in the paid work force able to receive benefits based on a spouse's employment record? Does the law provide for survivors benefits?

5. Does the law provide for paid parental leave, family/medical leave? Does it provide for a paid leave for parenting or care of a sick relative? Does it provide equal leave for men and women?

(40) General Comment No. 6, para. 26, Thirteenth Session (1995).

(2) General Comment No. 3, paras. 2, 10, Fifth Session (1990).

(3) General Comment No. 3, paras. 2,10, Fifth Session (1990); Limburg Principles paras. 25-28; Maastricht Guidelines, paras. 9, 10 (1998); General Comment No. 6, para. 30, Thirteenth Session (1995).

(4) General Comment No. 5, para. 28, Eleventh Session (1994).

(5) General Comment No. 6, paras. 28-29, Thirteenth Session (1995).

(7) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Togo.09/05/2001. E/C.12/1/Add.61.

(8) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Republic of Moldova. 12/12/2003. E/C. 12/1/Add.91.

(9) Concluding Observations of the CESCR: Benin. 05/06/2002. E/C.12/1/Add.78.
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Title Annotation:EQUALITY AND WOMEN'S ECONOMIC SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS: A Guide to Implementation and Monitoring Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Publication:Equality and Women's Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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