Climate change and digitisation will shape the next decades

UM – 07/2023

The European Representation of the German Social Insurance celebrated its 30th anniversary on 27 June. At the same time, the European single market has also turned 30. And as if that was not reason enough: The foundations of German Social Insurance were laid 140 years ago. 

The Palais Charles de Lorraine – always a place for special meetings – provided a worthy backdrop for special guests from politics and government, social security system and European associations and institutions. Those who made their way to the evening reception were rewarded: With the "DSV-Praline", which has already become a tradition, a warm summer evening on the slope of the Museum Hill in the heart of Brussels, a passionate speech by Dennis Radtke, Coordinator for Social Issues at the EPP in the European Parliament and best greetings from Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission and responsible for Democracy and Demography. Marion Finke from the Šuica cabinet delivered the same and in her speech emphasised the continuously good cooperation between the German Social Insurance (DSV) and her policy area; most recently on the Green Paper on Ageing.

"140 years of social security system – 30 years of the internal market". Bismarck on the move: Get digital. Go green“.

The Director of the German Social Insurance recalled how they came to Brussels 30 years ago to have a dialogue and to get involved politically. That calls for our commitment. The relaxed get-together over cool drinks was preceded by the professional debate. As part of a specialist conference "140 years of social security system – 30 years of the internal market". Bismarck on the move: Get digital. Go green." addressed two trends that will also bring about drastic changes for the social security system: digitisation and climate change.

This is how in the afternoon at the Hessian State Representation there were two rounds of intensive and high-level discussions on how the social security system must position itself in view of these challenges for the future. How Europe can support the necessary social transformation processes was also discussed. High-ranking representatives from politics, the European Commission, the OECD, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the German Social Insurance had their say.

Belgian Council Presidency: digitisation and social protection

The Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health, Frank Vandenbroucke, allowed an insight into his country's political plans in advance as a guest speaker. Belgium wants to use its Council Presidency from January 2024, among other things, to make the digitisation of social security systems more orderly. He was also applauded for this by MEP Gabriele Bischoff, who, as an expert on the coordination of social security systems, has been campaigning for years for more transparency in the procedures for cross-border mobile employment.

Referring to the European Pillar of Social Rights, Vandenbroucke argued for granting access to social protection to all EU citizens, whether part-time or full-time. An extension of the Council recommendation, which has already been in place since 2019, could help here.

"Europe to go - mobile working in the digital transformation"

The difficulty of implementing such plans can be seen in the platform work and the proposed directive currently in the trialogue. Nevertheless, Joost Korte, Director General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, underlined the need to find a Europe-wide response despite difficult negotiations during the first panel "Europe to go - mobile working in the digital transformation". However, Europe can only coordinate, but not harmonise in other areas. For example, when it comes to the interoperability of digital systems and processes. Should the EU's digitisation initiatives work in practice and not just on paper, the social security institutions must be closely involved at an early stage, demanded Gundula Roßbach, President of the German Pension Insurance. It is important to learn from past experiences to do better in the future. For example, in the development of standards for the common, data protection-compliant exchange of information. Dr Carsten Stender from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) also agreed.

© 2023 HorstWagner.euPictures of the DSV anniversary event

"Wind of change – social security system in climate change"

The second panel entitled "Wind of change – social security system in climate change" brought climate change to the fore. Francesca Colombo from the OECD brought up the painful subject right at the beginning: The health systems spend far too little money on prevention. Dr Doris Pfeiffer, Chair of the Board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV-Spitzenverband) also acknowledged that the health sector must become more ecological. She considers avoiding unnecessary treatments also as responsible use of resources. To ensure that climate protection measures do not exacerbate social inequalities, the European Commission wants climate and social policies to be interdependent. According to Frank Siebern-Thomas from the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, climate change brings new social disadvantages on top of existing ones. However, there are numerous European initiatives to counteract this. And also good funding. One item on the wish list of Dr Edlyn Höller, Deputy Chief Executive of the German Social Accident Insurance, was the special promotion of occupational safety and health in climate change. There would be a need for action with regard to the knowledge base and research into necessary occupational safety and prevention measures. However, the knowledge base is still thin also with regard to risks from new, green technologies, such as working with hydrogen. 

For further information such as the full programme and the discussion papers for the conference,  please visit.