The Global Inclusive Growth Partnership Launches Benefits21; Initiative Calls for a Comprehensive Overhaul of a Broken Benefits System

September 28, 2020

Multi-year initiative bringing together leading experts for new people-centric, tech-enabled and portable benefits system to ensure financial security for every worker and their families

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute


Washington, DC, September 28, 2020 – The Global Inclusive Growth Partnership (GIGP), an Aspen Institute collaboration with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, today announced Benefits21 – a new initiative focused on creating and implementing a modernized benefits system that ensures financial security for all workers. Experts from public and private sector organizations aim to create an inclusive, portable, people-centric, and interoperable system of benefits that is grounded in what workers need to be financially secure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it plain that everybody needs access to benefits and social insurance to weather crises, and emergency measures such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act have only partially addressed people’s immediate needs. These policy responses have not addressed the trend that a growing percentage of the U.S. workforce is disproportionately excluded from workplace benefits– or that one in four workers relies on the public safety net, a system which is antiquated, complex, and designed without their dignity or financial security in mind.

Benefits21, outlined in a new white paperA Modernized System of Benefits is the Foundation for an Inclusive Economy – will holistically examine the entire benefits ecosystem, including the role of the government, private sector employers, and individual workers. This includes public benefits such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI), as well as private benefits such as paid sick leave, retirement, and health insurance. Increasingly, there is also a need to modernize benefits to ensure access for workers across work arrangements. The aim is to transform benefits along four key principles:

  • People-centric, with workers and their voice and experience central to system design and delivery.
  • Interoperable, using technology to integrate benefit systems and platforms to ensure seamless and responsive access.
  • Portable, to ensure continuity of access and funding as workers transition to new jobs, enter new work arrangements and piece together different types of work.
  • Inclusive, to protect all workers regardless of the work arrangement and employment status.

“Workplace and public sector benefits are essential tools that help people manage risk and be productive, but too often they are least accessible to those who need them most. Whether retirement savings to take care of us in old age, paid leave so that we can afford to take care of loved ones, or health insurance — benefits provide us the means to live long, healthy, and dignified lives,” said Ida Rademacher, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program. “We cannot limit this conversation to providing emergency assistance during a time of crisis, vital though that is. Public and private sectors must come together to reimagine a system that empowers everyone to live a stable and secure life, and through Benefits21 we are providing the platform for this work to begin.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully clear, America’s safety net has not kept pace with the changing economy. Basic benefits have been increasingly difficult to access for millions of workers, especially non-traditional workers,” said Alastair Fitzpayne, executive director of the Aspen Institute Future of Work Initiative. “Benefits21 asks how we can modernize our system of benefits to better reflect the realities of working in America today, building a system that is portable, inclusive and designed to meet the needs of all workers.”

“The future of work is already here. And what we know about the present of workers is that they are going to need access to the right resources to navigate the post-pandemic digital economy,” said Parag Mehta, Executive Director and Senior Vice President, Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. “Benefits21 is focused on producing actionable insights to help envision a people-centric, tech-enabled system of portable benefits. Through this initiative, the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth are committed to designing a future of work that advances financial security and economic mobility for workers everywhere.”

Benefits21 has formed a leadership advisory group comprised of experts with deep knowledge of benefit systems – public, private and portable. With membership from across the private and public sectors, the Benefits 21 leadership advisory group will influence, engage and activate stakeholders to support policy solutions and marketplace innovation that create the change needed to help all workers thrive.

The Global Inclusive Growth Partnership was announced at the Global Inclusive Growth Summit in October 2019 with the recognition that, even in a period of economic strength, growing inequality was a crisis that necessitated urgent action. Since then, the impact of COVID-19 has led many more Americans to rely on benefits to meet basic needs, making these systems a cornerstone of a fair society and a key element of GIGP’s mission to build a more inclusive and resilient economy for all. The structure enables the Aspen Institute and the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth to leverage a full range of policy experts, leadership networks, and grassroots connections to achieve a common goal.


About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.

About the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth

The Center for Inclusive Growth advances equitable and sustainable economic growth and financial inclusion around the world. The Center leverages the company’s core assets and competencies, including data insights, expertise and technology, while administering the company’s philanthropy, the Mastercard Impact Fund, to produce independent research, scale global programs and empower a community of thinkers, leaders and doers on the front lines of inclusive growth. For more information and to receive its latest insights, follow the Center on Twitter @CNTR4growth and subscribe to its newsletter.


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