Economic, social and cultural rights

The right to an adequate standard of living is about “the human person’s rights to certain fundamental freedoms, including freedoms to avoid hunger, disease and illiteracy”. It includes specific rights to social security. This right is essential in order to achieve other economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to health and education.

According to the the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR):

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security. 
  • Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. 

CESCR has identified five essential elements of the right to social security:

  1. Availability of a sustainable social security system – established under domestic law and administered and supervised by public authorities 
  2. Coverage of social risks and contingencies – specifically to provide health-care and benefits due to sickness, old age, unemployment, employment injury, maternity or disability, and family and child support, including to survivors and orphans 
  3. Adequacy – of amount and duration, respecting the principles of human dignity and non-discrimination 
  4. Accessibility – coverage for all, especially those who are marginalised; eligibility criteria must be reasonable, proportionate and transparent; any contributory social security scheme must be affordable; beneficiaries must have information and be able to participate in the scheme’s administration and have physical access to its services 
  5. Relationship to other rights – other measures are necessary to complement the right to social security, including rehabilitation, childcare and welfare, and measures to combat poverty and social exclusion.

The Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit has researched many of these issues and recommends ways in which the current situation could be improved – through new ways of working, improved support for childcare, paid parental leave and financial and other supports to prevent and reduce problem debt. Click for further information.