Social rights – What it is, definition and concept

Social rights are those intended to promote that people have decent living conditions. As well as that of achieving a more just and equal society.

Social rights are designed for people who are in a situation of social or economic disadvantage. This inferiority situation can be caused by many factors. Such as belonging to a poor or unstructured family, being a victim of domestic violence, not having the same opportunities as others, having a low-paid job, etc. Social rights are responsible for alleviating these situations.

It should be noted that they are positive rights, that is, the State has to provide the tools so that they are fulfilled. For example, if the right to universal education is recognized, the State has to offer schools and teachers to realize this right.

If we speak of a negative right, the right to education would recognize that the individual is not prohibited from educating himself, but the derived expenses would be at his own expense. In that case we would speak of private education. But social rights are inherently positive, it takes the action of a third party to materialize them. Caused by the disadvantaged situation from which the individual starts. Since a person with a very high income, he would not need the State to indirectly provide him with the necessary services.

Social rights and democracy

Social rights are one more element of democratic states, although a country can be democratic without recognizing and developing all of these rights. The “social” feature is what guarantees that a State is committed to legislating in this field. For example, Spain is a social and democratic state of law. Article 20 of the German Constitution states that Germany is a federal, democratic and social state. Colombia is defined as a social state of law.

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As we can see, the word social is included in the legal systems of countries considered democratic. That is why part of the legislation and government efforts must be directed at alleviating inequalities and ensuring that all people have a decent standard of living.

What are the social rights?

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency summarizes these social rights in a short list:

  • Right to a job and a fair wage: This right does not mean that someone has to be given a job for the mere fact of existing. But it does guarantee that the job obtained has been chosen freely, has adequate remuneration (through the SMI), accrues the right to unemployment benefit and has equal pay.
  • Right to social protection: This includes rights such as sick leave, social security or retirement. Its reason for being is to protect a person from events or setbacks external to their own person. And that this does not constitute a possibility of falling into exclusion or poverty.
  • Right to housing: Like the right to work, it does not consist of giving a cabin to someone who does not have it. It is about facilitating their access. For this, measures such as land regulation or the construction of public housing are taken for low-income families or those at risk of social exclusion.
  • Education rights: It is intended that all the inhabitants of a country have equal access and opportunity to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Public education is considered as the social elevator, guaranteeing equal opportunities.
  • Right to health: Seeks that all people have access to the health system in case of illness. Diseases, to a large extent, are external to the behavior of individuals. Therefore, no person should be left out of being cured. Since, ultimately, the individual can pass away.
  • Right to the environment: It is the legislation in charge of guaranteeing that nature is respected as far as possible. That, except for the necessary activity of the human being, the environment is kept clean and with a more than respectable quality.
  • Right to Food: It is the right that all people have the minimum and sufficient food in their day to day. Therefore, for those who cannot feed themselves adequately, governments develop institutions such as soup kitchens or food collection. Private organizations are also involved.
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Legislation aimed at integrating disabled people should be mentioned to this list. It is done through financial aid for their development, as well as a reservation of jobs that they can perform. Also noteworthy are the efforts made against discrimination of any kind, whether on racial, economic or cultural grounds.

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