New report  from independent high-level group gives strong backing for Europe’s social protection systems

Europe social protection system graph

(20 February 2023) On 7 February a High Level Group (HLG) of 11 independent experts presented an excellent report - available online - on the future of social protection and the Welfare State. The HLG was set up in 2021 by the European Commission, as announced in the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) Action Plan. The HLG report provides compelling evidence on the positive benefits of high public spending and investment in universal, comprehensive and strong social protection systems. The ETUC’s Social Protection Committee also welcomed the report in its meeting on 16 February.

The publication of the HLG report follows a recent Eurobarometer survey that shows broad public support for spending on social policy. According to the survey 78% of Europeans believe that overall public spending on key social policies should increase. In order of importance, they think their governments should spend more on health, long-term care, education, pensions, housing, income support, family policies, and unemployment support. 78% also think their government should take measures to reduce differences in income levels, with the support of EU institutions (73%).

The Group’s report advocates for a life-cycle approach, making a well-reasoned case for the benefits of social investment and collective risk-sharing to provide all with protection at different life stages. From high quality early childhood education and care, employment services, work-life balance measures, health and long-term care, to pensions and much more, the collective and inter-generational solidarity that are strongly rooted in social protection systems underpin both social and economic performance.

By contributing to social cohesion, equality and political stability, social protection systems are key to responding effectively to megatrends such as demographic changes, the green and digital transitions and climate change. The HLG debunks the myth that high levels of social protection are (too) expensive and make the case for coherent measures to increase the necessary resources. These measures include: ensuring that everyone contributes to social protection; tackling tax avoidance and building fair and progressive taxation systems; and improving the quality of work.

At EU level the report advocates for a ‘golden investment rule’ to exclude investment in social protection from debt and deficit criteria.

The report is expected to be widely disseminated and discussed in the upcoming months by Member States, the current Swedish Presidency and upcoming Spanish and Belgium ones.

Find the full HLG report here.
See also report on Distributional Impact Assessment that supports governments to assess distributional effects of specific policy measures on monetary incomes across various groups of the population.