A report commissioned by the European Commission to the European Social Policy Network of independent experts published today shows that Member States have made progress in implementing reforms toward the modernisation of the social protection systems but there is still a lot to be done across the European Union.
In 2013, the Commission adopted the Social Investment Package, which urged Member States to modernise their social protection systems with a view to emerging from the crisis stronger, more cohesive and more competitive. This means better performing active inclusion strategies and a more efficient and more effective use of social budgets.
The Commission encourages Member States to adopt such an approach in their welfare systems through the country specific recommendations in the context of the European Semester and the guidance provided in the Annual Growth Survey. This should also contribute towards achieving the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, especially the employment and poverty targets, and strengthen our economic foundations.
Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility welcomed the report and stated: "This report demonstrates that many Member States have started to modernise their social protection systems towards greater social investment. They are stepping up their support for children, removing barriers for parents to pursue their professional aspirations and recognise the importance of providing adequate support to people excluded from the labour market. These reforms have clear benefits in terms of increased skill development, higher labour market participation, higher competiveness and higher economic growth. However, the report also shows that there is room for further efforts by Member States. The Commission will therefore continue its support to Member States' reforms, key to greater social cohesion and upward social convergence".
To further support Member States in their efforts to modernise their social protection systems, the Commission has decided to take stock of how Member States have implemented reforms up to now. The Commission commissioned the European Social Policy Network of independent experts to assess the overall approach across Europe. The report concludes that Member States have moved ahead in their reform efforts, but more and quicker progress is possible and needed.
The experts’ report shows that many Member States have well-established social investment approaches to their social welfare systems, which they have been maintaining and strengthening over the years. Other Member States are also undertaking policy reforms towards the direction of social investment, notably in terms of stepping up activating and enabling support for labour market reintegration, support for early childhood development and supporting parents' labour market participation. However the crisis and fiscal constraints have, at times, complicated some Member States' reform efforts.
The report also highlights that different social policies can often reinforce each other, and therefore it is important for reforms to consider such complementarities. One such example highlighted is how cash benefits like unemployment benefits and minimum income can be more effective in preventing poverty and helping people enter employment when they are joined up with measures that help people to develop their skills and employability and quality services such as childcare.
In addition to the recommendations provided through the European Semester, the EU also provides financial support for these policy reforms through the European Social Fund. The report gives examples of the use of the European Social Fund in supporting, for example, stepping up early childhood education and care and providing services to help rehabilitate people with disabilities and support them to re-enter employment.