The European Commission previously announced the establishment of a high-level expert group to examine
the future of the welfare state, its financing and its links with the changing
working world as well as climate change as part of its European Pillar of Social Rights action plan.
group, which was established in November 2021 and chaired by the former Greek
Minister and EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal
Opportunities, Anna Diamantopoulou, presented its Final report on 7 February. In it, the authors presented 21
recommendations grouped around nine strategic objectives for integrated social
protection throughout everyone’s lifetimes.
The effects of megatrends on social protection
of this expert group was to analyse the expected effects of megatrends such as
demographic change, labour market transformations, digitisation and
globalisation as well as the emergence of new risks relating to social
protection, whilst keeping an eye on climate change and the green deal as well.
Based on this, the group was asked to develop recommendations for the design
and scope of social protection systems as well as their financing.
Social protection policy during specific life phases
report placed the life stages of EU citizens at the centre of its social policy
considerations. A distinction was made between different population groups
during their differing life cycle. This allowed them to define what
combination of social services, income support and supporting regulations would
be needed to be able to realise effective social protection and well-being
during their lifetimes. The report emphasised that some challenges are
important in all stages of life, such as being cared for in the event of
illness. However, most needs vary according to the life cycle and require
appropriately-targeted social protection policies.
Starting strong: participation from childhood
this heading, the report emphasised that the long-term benefits of investing
heavily in social cohesion and education during early childhood as well as the
subsequent school phase. The best possible educational and participation
opportunities for all children and adolescents are essential for ensuring
prosperity and social protection in the future. At the same time, early
interventions would also make an important contribution to maintaining
intergenerational contract. The young would benefit from investments in
education and social participation. They would then support the social
protection benefits for older people during their working lives.
Financing the social investments
the tasks given to the expert group was to consider sustainable social
protection financing. The report emphasised the importance of continued growth
and higher labour force participation rates, especially amongst older people.
Whereas a recommendation for a blanket increase of the standard retirement age
limit was not proposed, the importance of integrative labour markets as well as
prevention was emphasised.
Revised framework for the Maastricht criteria
revised framework for the Maastricht criteria covering public debt was proposed
at European level. According to this proposal, expenditure on social
investments should no longer to be taken into consideration as part of a
deficit procedure. The attendant Social Affairs ministers from Spain, José Luis
Escrivá, and Belgium, Frank Vandenbroucke, took up this issue during the
discussion. During the forthcoming council presidencies of Spain, in the second
half of 2023, and Belgium, in the first half of 2024, the European Commission and the relevant
committees from the member states will be working on the definition and
operationalisation of social investment.