Social security is not always based on basic social rights guaranteed by law to all human beings, whether living from the results of their work or during their temporary or permanent inability to work; nor does the law always guarantee the same application of social rights to everyone without discrimination of race, nationality, religion, sex and age, and without distinction between contract and independent workers belonging to any part of the economy. Social security frequently does not guarantee against all social difficulties and risks, such as sickness, old age, invalidity, work accidents, occupational diseases, unemployment, family difficulties, the death of the family provider, poor crops, or natural calamities and epizootic diseases which destroy produce and livestock. Free medical, psychological, pharmaceutical and family planning services through social institutions such as hospitals, dispensaries, mothers' and infants' welfare centres, and social centres are not always ensured. There may be a lack of special attention to the prevention of work accidents and occupational diseases; the system may not grant sufficient allowances to ensure a means of existence to all insured persons and their families; may not be financed by employers and the state without heavy contributions from those insured; and may not be managed by representatives of those insured, under state supervision.
Industrialization is accompanied by an influx of workers from areas with traditional ways of life into urban centres, and this change gives rise to feelings of insecurity. The workers may fear that sickness or accident, invalidity or old age will deprive them of their means of existence, as they can no longer easily turn to a family or communal group for support and aid.
The low state of social security in the developing countries is due mainly to their poverty. This in turn arises from the imbalance in the wealth of the population. Lack of educational democratization, and a class system of a privileged few and underprivileged many, creates serious obstacles to the institution and maintenance of social security insurance and welfare service programmes as an inadequate infrastructure is maintained. The absence of unemployment benefits forces people to find some way of earning money, for example as a shoeshine boy. Labour in the informal sector is typically characterized by low levels of productivity and income, and must face a high degree of instability of employment. Remuneration tends to be too low to provide workers with an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families.
In addition, the lack of realistic statistical data hampers the preparation of general, rational local and national social service plans. Such data is needed by governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations, such as trade unions, cooperatives, employers programmes, charities, private hospitals and schools, banks and developmental consortia.
The decline of traditional social security arrangements is more obvious in cities but it also affects the countryside. The depopulation of villages by emigration of men results in a lessening of communal and family solidarity and in an increasing need to assist the traditional structure of society to care for the helpless, the aged, the blind, the infirm and orphaned children. Moreover, the governments involved face a fundamental problem regarding the extent to which their limited facilities and financial resources should be applied to the destitute, who represent only the fringe of a vast population that is, in any case, always on the edge of destitution; and the extent to which those facilities and resources should be applied to preventative health measures and measures for improvement of general standards of living.