Social insurance fit for climate change

VS – 06/2022

With the report presented on 6 april, the French Senate wants to initiate a social debate on a reorientation of social security and employment policy. Regarding climate change and increased environmental risks, which also affect social insurance, the Senate wants to initiate a social debate on a reorientation of social insurance and employment policy with the submitted report.

The goal is to enable the various branches of social insurance to cope with the social and health consequences of climate change. The Senate worked out 48 proposals for this, which are assigned to four fields of action.

1. Development of long-term strategies

According to the Senate, the focus of French health policy to date has been on curing diseases. By contrast, only three per cent of the budget is spent on prevention. On the other hand, measures for healthy lifestyles, prevention, occupational health and early rehabilitation must become significantly more important in order to better protect individuals in the future. The goal must be to reduce health risks at an early stage and to maintain long-term employability.

1. Realignment of social security financing - establishment of an environmental fund?

In the view of the Senate, the demands of climate change on sustainable economic activity and the need to protect natural resources call into question the dogma of steady economic growth. This also affects the revenue side of social security. By contrast, the expenditure side faces additional challenges. Due to climate change, social security must absorb additional risks. In addition, there is a need for supplementary social compensation for particularly affected low-income households. Additional financial resources must be made available for this purpose. In order to ensure the financial sustainability of social security in the long term under these conditions, the Senate is introducing the creation of an environmental fund - Climate Social Fund - analogous to the one envisaged at the EU level.

The establishment of a separate social insurance strand to manage the resources of such an environmental fund was also discussed. The background to this consideration is to ensure that the additional funds are used selectively for the additional social challenges triggered by climate change, and that this can be transparently understood by citizens.

3. Anticipating changes in the world of work and integrating them into the system

Climate change will lead to significant changes in the labour market. Industries and associated professions will lose importance or disappear altogether. Other industries will expand and new professions will emerge. The Senate estimates that this will affect 3.8 million workers in France. They must be given comprehensive support as well as retraining and advanced training opportunities. Together with the social partners, it is important to develop new forms of employment adapted to climatic changes.

4. Right to healthy food

Nutrition has a significant impact on health. At the same time, there is a pronounced social gradient in healthy eating. Therefore, the Senate considers significant effort necessary to increase consumer awareness as well as to allow low-income households enjoy a high-quality diet. In addition, farms should be fairly remunerated for high-quality products.

What's next:

The election campaigns for the office of President of the French Republic and for the French National Assembly have shown that reforms of the various branches of social security will be a central issue in the next legislative period. With this report, the Senate has broadened the focus to include the long-term challenges associated with climate change.

You can find the French Senate’s report here.