Comeback of a central objective for social security in Europe.

VS – 12/2021

Access to social protection

As part of its deliberations on the European Semester, EPSCO discussed the national reports on access to social protection for the first time at its meetings that were held on December 6 and 7. This first exchange at European level is an essential part of the Council’s recommendation on access to social protection for the employed and self-employed that was released on November 8, 2019.

The first reporting round started in May 2021. The results will be included in the European Semester. In this context, identified deficits and gaps will be included in the country-specific recommendations as a matter of priority. National reporting is complemented by a monitoring framework for access to social protection in the member states, established by the Social Protection Committee (SPC) and the EC.

First national reports

One of the focuses of this year's national reporting was on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the spearheaded actions to safeguard particularly vulnerable groups, and the emerging evidence about protection for these groups. Member states also reported on their implemented and planned measures for the first time. In addition to the identified deficits and the implementing of the planned measures, the gender perspective should be better reflected in the monitoring. In this context, the Commission aims to agree on milestones for gender-differentiable indicators.

A common objective with a long history

Ensuring adequate social protection for all employees has been discussed at European level for many years. The original formulation of the OMC (Open Method of Coordination) covering social protection and social inclusion in 2000 already highlighted access to social protection as a key common objective. Through the OMC, the EU member states agreed on common social policy guidelines and objectives and agreed on annual monitoring of progress towards achieving the objectives.

However, in the further development of social policy monitoring at European level, this objective has taken on much less importance than the other key objectives of adequate pension and health care benefits and combating poverty and social exclusion.

This changed with the reorientation of social policy objectives through the agreement of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). The aim is to create new and more effective principles and policies for all citizens under the "equal opportunities and access to the labour market", "fair working conditions" and "social protection and social inclusion” dimensions. The aim is to close existing gaps so that member states with weaker protection systems catch up (upward convergence). The focus here will be on access to social protection.