Social protection systems in Europe prevent a rise in income inequality and poverty risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

VS – 10/2021

The "Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs" Council adopted the annual report of the Social Protection Committee (SPC) on 13 October. This provides an overview of Member States' social policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and provides a first analysis of the impact of the crisis on social protection.

Thereafter, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to a period of far-reaching improvements in the social situation. As a result, there were unprecedented upheavals in economic and social life. However, the benefits provided by social security systems have been able to considerably mitigate the decline in household incomes. Thanks to its performance to a great extent - a rise in income inequality and poverty risk was prevented during the crisis. However, previously vulnerable groups, such as those in need of care or atypical workers, have been hit harder by the effects of the crisis.

Guidance on social protection measures after the crisis

On the basis of the analysis undertaken, the report puts forward orientations for social protection measures in the aftermath of the pandemic-related crisis. It states that priority will continue to be given to measures to combat poverty and social exclusion. In line with the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights, it is important to further reduce income inequality and increase the resilience of social protection systems. Emphasis is placed on the development of effective minimum income schemes and broad access to social protection benefits. Targeted action is needed for those most at risk.

The experience of the pandemic and the analyses in the SPC's Nursing Report 2021 have shown that considerable efforts are needed to overcome the structural challenges in nursing.  For long-term assurance of adequate and financially sustainable retirement systems, please refer to the SPC's 2021 Pension Adequacy Report. It stresses the need to continue work on sustainable financing.