The importance of a social policy has increased.

IF – 02/2022

In 2021 the Covid-19 pandemic turned the political spotlight onto a non-controversial reassessment of the European welfare state. Calls for improving the social and health care systems as well as more support and more financial aid came from all camps and political groups. Weaknesses and gaps in social protection became increasingly apparent, especially as a result of the pandemic.

Promotion of the social policy through the pandemic

In a joint study undertaken by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the European Social Observatory (OSE) science centre, political events since the outbreak of the pandemic have been analysed chronologically. The short- and long-term benefits as well as the apparent movement within the political power structure to incorporate the social aspect into many more policy areas in the EU were highlighted for the first time. Climate change has many social impacts and the pandemic has also had many social impacts, but the answers can only be worked out by policy makers if they respond quickly and effectively.

Who are the "social" losers?

When financial aid flows for the first time, a person's or company's existence might be temporarily saved, but the severity and duration of the pandemic has left more of a mark. Consequently and from a fiscal policy perspective, long-term thinking should always be adopted in the future. Special attention should also be paid to the poorer sections of society, who are likely to suffer more from the long-term negative effects. This affects their employability, which in turn creates health risks and educational gaps.

Wishes for the policy

In the future, the EC and its member states should place much more emphasis on preventing inequalities and providing even more support to the weaker members of society. One of the top issues in European politics has long been climate change and its impact on people. Promoting green growth and employment in rural areas as the cornerstone for better mitigating further crises, could also be seen as a new opportunity in the social sector.

A more intensive policy focus on vulnerable groups, especially children of poorer families, families with a migrant background, the elderly or people with impairments, would lead to more stable social policies. Social balance could be achieved through fairer fiscal policies. Instead of using only the EU-wide solidarity mechanism, i.e. the SURE programme as a crisis response to cushioning unemployment in the short-term, there must also be long-term instruments and solutions.

2022 social agenda

The EC’s social aspirations under Ursula von der Leyen are reflected in the French presidency (see News 01.2022). The European minimum wage is being negotiated, the platform working initiative is on the table and negotiations about coordinating social security systems are to enter a new round. France, as we know, is always a friend of strong social policies, but all of the other member states must move on as well. The results from the citizens' forums for the future conference will also be presented in the spring. Whether this will lead to new paths towards further European integration, whether there will actually be legislation or perhaps even treaty changes remain to be seen.

You can find the entire study here.