Intro on European Social Rights
The European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) consists of 20 key principles to build a fairer and more inclusive Europe.
The EPSR Action Plan adopted in 2021 in Porto provides concrete actions and initiatives, including headline targets to be achieved by 2030:
- 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 in employment
- 60% of all adults should be participating in training every year
- reduction of at least 15 million in the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion
The engagements undertaken by the Action Plan included the establishment of a group of high-level experts “to study the future of the welfare state, its financing and interconnections with the changing world of work and to present a report by end 2022”.
The High-Level Group on the Future of Social Protection and of the Welfare State in the EU published its final report in February 2023. The report represents a very positive step towards the concretization of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the EPSR. It provides a set of evidence-based Recommendations concerning a series of comprehensive public policy interventions – both at EU and national level – that allow both the fair social and the fiscal sustainability of enhanced welfare systems and facing the megatrends – i.e., demographic transition, changes in the world of work, digitalisation and technological change, climate change and the green transition.
The expert group proposes a holistic, life-cycle approach, based on public investment, which emerges not only as closely intertwined with the economic dimension, but also as conditional to the sustainability of the fabric of the EU social market economy facing the current challenges.
It emerges that it is crucial to enhance public policies that favour universal, solidarity-based and long-term solutions and prevent current and future socio-economic downturns.
The real game changer is public investment in enhanced universal welfare states and high quality public services, together with much higher public investment in education, care, training and lifelong learning, and income support.
Investing in reducing inequalities and socio-economic imbalances, focusing on increasing activity and productivity rates at work, creating quality jobs and designing solidarity-based public social protection systems will lead to fiscal sustainability.
Substantial public social investment in quality welfare with a life-cycle approach (starting early in people’s and workers’ lives) is found to be crucial to offset the effects of an ageing population, imbalances in welfare expenditure, inequalities and lack of social mobility and intergenerational solidarity – much more than simply raising the retirement age. The recommended approach would lead to a double dividend in the medium term, reducing public expenditure on income protection while enlarging the tax base to finance social protection.
Where do we stand on the EPSR?
The Belgian presidency, in 2024, will initiate a revision of the EPSR Action Plan. The ETUC looks forward the assessment of the AP achievement status and the revision of the principles, in particular those on social protection and inclusion – that make up half of the Pillar. The ETUC had already started such an exercise in 2022, with inputs to the Action Plan and the revision of some principles.