Social protection

28 september 2022

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Social protection systems exist to protect people against the risks of loss of income associated with unemployment, ill-health and invalidity, parental responsibilities, costs of children and housing, old age or following the loss of a spouse or parent.Read more

Social protection systems exist to protect people against the risks of loss of income associated with unemployment, ill-health and invalidity, parental responsibilities, costs of children and housing, old age or following the loss of a spouse or parent. The organisation and financing of social protection systems lies with EU Member States. Nevertheless, the EU has a particular role in ensuring, through EU legislation coordinating national social security systems, that people who move across borders and hence come within the remit of different social protection systems are adequately protected. Such legislation mainly concerns statutory social security schemes.

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EU context

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Article 2 of the EU Treaty identifies the promotion of a high level of social protection as a key task. The social protection system includes benefits in cash and in kind.Read more

Article 2 of the EU Treaty identifies the promotion of a high level of social protection as a key task. The social protection system includes benefits in cash and in kind. The European Pillar of Social Rights highlights access to childcare, healthcare, long-term care and housing alongside unemployment benefits, minimum income and resources for people in old age that ensure they can live in dignity.

The European Pillar of Social Rights sets out 20 key principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and social protection systems. The principles are structured around three categories, one of which is social protection and inclusion. On 4 March 2021, the European Commission presented its action plan to fully implement the Pillar, turning the principles into concrete actions to benefit EU citizens, while also supporting the recovery from the impact of COVID-19. To reduce inequalities, it proposes a new target for the EU to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 15 million by 2030, including at least 5 million children.

On 24 March 2021, the Commission proposed an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child and Council Recommendation establishing the European Child Guarantee to ensure that children at risk of poverty and social exclusion have effective access to key services such as healthcare and education. On 14 June 2021, the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) adopted the European Child Guarantee. 

The Commission uses the European Semester process to monitor the social protection systems of Member States and offers country-specific recommendations where necessary on the use of their social budgets to ensure adequate and sustainable social protection.

Another key priority for the European Commission is to create a Europe fit for the digital age. This includes investing in digital public services and also providing adequate social protection for platform workers. 

Eurofound’s work on social protection links in with the Commission’s 2019–2024 priority on an economy that works for people. 

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European Industrial Relations Dictionary

Research

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Eurofound’s studies have looked at access to services and benefits both as means to meet specific needs and as part of integrated efforts to promote inclusion. Quality public services are a vital means for achieving high levels of social protection and social inclusion.Read more

Eurofound’s studies have looked at access to services and benefits both as means to meet specific needs and as part of integrated efforts to promote inclusion. Quality public services are a vital means for achieving high levels of social protection and social inclusion. Eurofound research examines access to and quality of a variety of social services, also investigating the impact of COVID-19 on the use and delivery of such services. The focus is on those services and benefits that respond to the needs of vulnerable groups such as older people, migrants, young people or people with disabilities. 

Research will also focus on structural change, driven largely by digitalisation, climate change and also COVID-19, and how to ensure just transitions that promote social protection and workers’ rights. 

Social protection and quality of life

Eurofound examines access to and quality of social protection in its European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS). EQLS 2016, the latest edition, includes an analysis of perceptions of insecurity around different societal concerns: personal safety, housing insecurity, employment insecurity and income insecurity. It also includes an extended module on access to and quality of healthcare, long-term care, childcare and education.   

Provision of social services

With people living longer, the need for affordable care of high quality is increasing. Research on care homes for older Europeans examines long-term care services in the public and private sectors, looking into issues of quality, accessibility and efficiency of services. Access to early childhood education and care services and the quality of such services are also receiving greater attention in the EU, both to enable employment of parents, especially mothers, and to promote the well-being of children. A Eurofound study assessed evidence on the elements of working conditions and in-service training that increase the quality of such services.

In its 2013 resolution, Social housing in the EU, the European Parliament called on Eurofound to examine the cost of inaction on inadequate housing. The EQLS has also highlighted problems with the affordability of housing, while other research has examined the development of advisory services to help people deal with household debts. Moreover, Eurofound’s study on access to social benefits examines where gaps have been identified between eligibility and take-up of social benefits and provides an overview of problems that people encounter in accessing benefits. Another strand of research has explored the social dimension of intra-EU mobility and specifically looked at the impact on social protection and public services, including the take-up of welfare benefits. 

Other research has focused on the provisions on maternity leave in the Member States, showing a high level of compliance with the provisions of the Maternity Leave Directive (92/85/EEC).

Eurofound has examined successful initiatives aimed at promoting the social inclusion of young people in the EU. Research has also explored the situation regarding access to social protection for young people on temporary or fixed-term contracts. A further study examined the implementation of active inclusion policy as an instrument for combating the exclusion of young people with disabilities or health problems from the labour market. 

Upward convergence in social protection systems

Through the various strands of research, Eurofound will monitor upward convergence in social protection and provide in-depth analyses of convergence trends among European countries. 

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Publications & data

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The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.

  • Publications (501)
  • Údaje
  • Ongoing work

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles. 

 

Other ongoing work

  • Monitoring convergence in social protection and providing in-depth analyses of convergence trends among European countries as well as a discussion of policy options to restore convergence among Member States