Sharm El-Sheikh conference discusses pension challenges and reforms in Arab world

Ahmed Kotb , Wednesday 28 Sep 2022

The Arab Pensions and Social Insurance Conference kicked off on Wednesday under the title ‘Arab Pensions Outlook 2050 – Change and Opportunity’ to discuss challenges facing the pension systems in the Arab world and how to overcome them.

EGYPT

 

The two-day conference, taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, is attended by a number of Arab ministers, officials and representatives of international organisations as well as private sector companies.

Gamal Awad, chairman of Egypt’s National Authority for Social Insurance, said that the coronavirus pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war have led to a global economic crisis and put more pressure on increasing efforts to find and maintain sustainable social insurance and pension funds.

“We gather here to share the successful experiences of some Arab countries in the fields of investment in social insurance funds and anticipating the future prospects of pension and social insurance systems in light of economic and social changes,” Awad said.

“We strive to set the appropriate mechanisms and recommendations for collective action at the Arab level for social security institutions that provide Arab citizens with basic needs and rights to achieve social justice.”

Nevine El-Qabbaj, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, stressed that pension systems play an important role in the Arab world and globally in providing a regular income for pensioners, insuring them against all forms of risks, and in improving the quality of life for families.

She also noted that a report by the International Labour Organisation issued in 2021 on building the future of social security and global trends revealed that only 47 percent of the world’s population benefit from one or more social security programs, while the remaining 53 percent are not included under any kind of social protection.

El-Qabbaj added that about 78 percent of people above retirement age receive a pension, while only 19 percent of the unemployed receive unemployment compensation, and 34 percent of people with disabilities receive disability compensation. 

As for compensation for work injuries, the minister said that it only covers 35 percent of the official labour force at the global level, and despite the advantages that have become available in the insurance protection system, fears of holding on to efficient and sustainable social protection and pension systems increase during periods of economic crises and economic reform, labour market transformations, and budget cuts.

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait affirmed that Egypt was able to make a historic achievement that embodies a pioneering experience in reforming the pension and social security system, based on providing a decent life for all citizens, especially senior citizens.

“All the global economic challenges have imposed pressure on the budgets of many countries, especially emerging economies in the Arab region,” he stated, adding that the recurrence of international crises has led to negative impacts on the performance of the global economy, which requires the expansion of the social security umbrella.

The government has been working on reforming the pension system in a comprehensive and integrated way and resolving financial entanglements between the Ministry of Finance and the pension system.

Adel Al-Asoumi, president of the Arab Parliament, said that the Parliament realizes the importance of developing pension systems and protecting lives, especially working to issue legislations that are for the benefit of pension insurance systems.

He also stressed the importance of exchanging experiences in social security systems and restructuring the systems in order to keep pace with the changes that have occurred in the Arab world, so that Arab countries have a safety plan for social protection that is in the interest of pensioners.

Marcelo Abi-Ramia, secretary general of the International Social Security Association, believes it is necessary to look for innovative solutions for social security systems that aim to reduce poverty and achieve accelerated sustainable development.

“Social security has become more important than ever, given all the current challenges,” he stressed, adding that protecting people from poverty through social security systems is a priority.

The conference, which is being held in Egypt in its sixth edition after five consecutive years of being held in Bahrain, will also discuss over two days the challenges and reforms regarding the delivery of sustainable pensions in the Arab World, equality and equity, managing private pension funds, the art and science of actuarial assumptions, and post-pandemic investing.

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