The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has published its opinion on the Commission’s proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed (see DSV article 03/2018). It reaffirms that every person should enjoy the right to a decent life, social protection and protection against all major risks at work and throughout their life, including healthcare and a dignified retirement. To ensure this, the EESC again addresses the issue of a basic income and the need to reform the funding of social security systems.
Funding of social security systems
The aim of the Commission’s initiative is to ensure concrete and effective access to social protection systems for all workers, especially those in non-standard employment, and all self-employed persons. All people should contribute to these systems according to their capacity, including being exempt from contributions. The systems, which should provide at least an adequate minimum level of provisions and fallback safety nets, could be tax-based and/or insurance-based.
The EESC calls on the Member States to seek solutions to the financing of social security systems, using resources in a way that ensure their long-term sustainability. The sustainability and financing of adequate access to social protection to accompany changes in labour markets must be ensured.
Guaranteeing a minimum income
The EESC regrets that the basic income has been removed in the Commission’s proposal for a Recommendation and refers to an earlier opinion on the European minimum income and poverty indicators.
In this opinion, the EESC argued that the introduction of a European minimum income would help to ensure economic and territorial cohesion, protect fundamental human rights, guarantee a balance between economic and social objectives and redistribute wealth and incomes fairly. The Commission was called upon to explore potential ways of funding a European minimum income, focusing in particular on the prospect of creating an appropriate European fund. The EESC also called for an adequate minimum income in the European Union to be ensured by means of a framework directive to effectively combat poverty and easier integration into the labour market.
Protection of non-standard workers and the self-employed
With regard to the Commission’s proposal for a Council recommendation on access to social protection, the EESC is in favour of a comprehensive solution to the problems associated with the recognition of social security entitlements for workers in new forms of employment. Such a solution could be found by reforming the way in which the system is funded.
In order to provide adequate social protection for the self-employed, the EESC welcomes the decision to make formal insurance compulsory for sickness, healthcare, maternity/paternity, old age and invalidity benefits, as well as workplace accidents and occupational diseases. Measures aimed at full coverage of the self-employed are welcome, particularly given the low participation rates of self-employed persons in voluntary schemes.
Social protection systems should be based on solidarity and equality. There should be no discrimination due to different personal circumstances, backgrounds or employment status.
The Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed is to be adopted on 6 December 2018 in accordance with the work programme of the Austrian Presidency of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. According to the Commission, Member States should submit action plans containing the measures taken at national level one year after publication of the recommendations.