Magazine ed*
ed* No. 01/2017

The European Pillar of Social Rights –
many unanswered questions in the opinion of the German Social Insurance

ed* No. 01/2017 – Chapter 4


The close derivation of the “Social Pillar” from the project for “Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union” is reason enough to measure it against this yardstick and to put its individual elements to the test. Does the draft European Pillar really respect the subsidiarity principle as claimed, that is, does it respect the Member States’ competences in the area of social policy? To what extent is the implementation of the pillar dependent on new intergovernmental transfer mechanisms or funding by the European Community? It is realistic to talk about “upward convergence”, that is, a situation where some “win” without others “losing”? 


Therefore, in a joint position statement, the umbrella associations of the German social insurance system have stated their opposition to attempts to expand competences at European level4. Simultaneously, certain positions in the EU Commission’s proposed catalogue of “principles” have drawn criticism.  


In the opinion of the German Social Insurance, the Commission’s initiative offers opportunities to strengthen the social component of Europe and its Member States against purely fiscal and efficiency-driven priorities. However, it also rejects binding European minimum standards and benchmarks for several reasons. Europe would arrogate competences that it simply does not have and should not have. There are good reasons why the design and organisation of social policy and social insurance is primarily a matter for the Member States. The social and economic situation, the national identity, the historical character and the political preferences in each of the Member States are very different. The same applies to financial capability. Therefore, it would be wrong to indiscriminately apply the same quantitative standards and benchmarks to all Member States. Finally, potential European requirements are not only a “boon” for citizens, they are also ambivalent. The “principles”, objectives and policy priorities set out by the EU Commission are linked to conditions and thus can possibly be below the progress already achieved in the Member States.  

The changing world of work: does social security need to adjust?

The EU Commision rightly points out that the world of work is changing and there is a need to adjust social protection. New forms of work such as crowdworking or platform work, as well as technological advances, certainly have advantages, but it must not be forgotten that people’s need for protection stays the same. This throws up a new challenge in terms of protecting certain groups of self-employed persons, not least in Germany.