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
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
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
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.