Commission has published a report about implementing the Council's recommendation about accessing social protection

VS – 02/2023

The European Commission published its first report about implementing its recommendation about accessing Social Protection on 31 January. As it is now three years since the Council adopted the recommendation and it depicts a mixed picture of the implementation progress that has been made. On the one hand, the report showed that a number of member states have implemented or are planning to implement reforms to improve the situation. On the other hand, the report also stated that most of the member states are not attempting to close all of the gaps that exist in accessing social protection.

Principle 12 of the European Pillar of Social Rights

Principle 12 of the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESSR) emphasises that employees and – under comparable conditions – the self-employed are entitled to adequate social protection regardless of the nature and duration of their employment. The Council included this in its 2019 recommendation. This differentiates between the four dimensions that can be used for analysing access to social protection: formal protection, actual protection, adequacy and transparency.


Part of the Council's recommendation is that progress in realising access to social protection should be constantly monitored and that the European Commission should report regularly to the Council about how the recommendation is being implemented. The result of this was that the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) agreed on a monitoring framework back in October 2020. In addition to the monitoring framework, the first implementation report assessed recent measures and reforms announced or implemented by member states, as identified in the national implementation plans, the European semester reporting requirements and the development and resilience plans. The results of the study made by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) about social protection for young people (see also News 05/2022) have also been included in the report.

Self-employed and atypical employees are inadequately protected

The report showed that social security systems are still relying too much on traditional systems designed for workers with permanent full-time contracts. Atypical workers, especially those in new forms of employment such as platform work, are usually inadequately protected.

However, the report confirmed progress in making the services transparent. Most member states are working to reduce the complexity of their application procedures and social protection rules and they are trying to make it easier for everyone who is insured to claim social protection benefits.

Initiatives that were part of the COVID-19 pandemic

The report emphasised that during the COVID-19 pandemic, member states extended social protection to previously unprotected groups through a variety of measures, most of which were temporary. However, successful policy implementations also showed that member states were aware of the gaps in their social protection systems. According to the European Commission, this crisis policy could also be a model for structural reforms that will improve the protection provided to the unemployed, atypically employed and self-employed.

Access to social protection will be the focus of the Belgian Presidency of the EU Council

Belgium's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Frank Vandenbrouke, announced in an article in Social Europe on 7 February that the ESSR's Principle 12 "Access to Social Protection" will be a focus of the Belgian Presidency during the first half of 2024. He is critical of the fact that a Council recommendation was chosen as the European level political instrument for securing access to social protection. In his view, a guideline would be much more effective, as Council recommendations are not binding.