EAPN’s 2018 annual conference was held on 5 July, under the title Social Protection for All! How can the Social Pillar and SDGs build stronger welfare states?
The conference exchanged together on the following questions:
- What is Social Protection for all?
- How can we ensure that all people, children, adults and older people get right to adequate and equal protection against all life risks?
- Do we need a new concept of ‘Welfare States’?
- How can this be financed ensuring fairer redistribution?
See the programme here.
We were kicked off by Cidália Tomé Barriga, Activist with direct experience of poverty/EAPN PT who said “I had to seek for social protection, more exactly the Minimum Income..which allowed us to meet the most basic needs, such as food. At the moment we are both working, but wages are so low we still need social protectuion to access health, education & housing.. We must fight for adequate systems, accessible to all citizens..one of the ways for this to happen is to create and implement a European strategy to fight poverty and social exclusion”.
Jan Farzan from the German Ministry said that they are committed to investigating potential EU instruments to ensure adequate minimum income and minimum wage. In terms of improved access to minimum income, Ignatio Doreste from the ETUC said that Member States need clear guidance but more so a directive in fact! Sian Jones, speaking of the EMIN bus Journey round Europe, confirmed the reality on the ground that Minimum Income schemes are in crisis and a big boost in investment and hard law is needed. Eurochild’s Head of Advocacy, Réka Tunyogi, gave input on how the key area of family’s and children’s rights to social protection is addressed in the Pillar of Social Rights.
All participants engaged in Coffee Table discussions which brought us closer to what the challenges to a social protection for all are, and what promising practices there are, as well as how to finance welfare states.
In the 2nd panel, Valérie Schmitt & Christina Berhendt of the ILO on a panel on building and financing welfare states, strongly supported the commitment to a social protection for all, as part of the agreement on the ILO/UN Social Protection Floor. They will be launching a centenary campaign on Universal Social Protection in 2019. Francine Mestrum, Founder of Global Social Justice, called to look beyond what has been given to us and to make our own agenda, referring to their campaign for a global charter. Social Justice can be an ideal entry point for a transformational agenda. Solidar’s General Secretary Conny Reuter, reminded us that good social systems in Europe are part of our identity and should not be undermined by arguments of cost-effectiveness. Our EAPN BG member Maria Jeliazkova also presented the results of our reflection paper on financing social protection. See Documents section below.
- Short conference report, including Key Messages from the coffee table discussions
Overall messages from the conference
- Universal, adequate, social protection for all across the life cycle is a human right and a crucial base for cohesive, social and sustainable development.
- Member States must give strong backing to the Council Recommendation on Access to Social Protection: to reduce precarious work and ensure access for all and make progress on adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income.
- Employment-based systems are important, but not enough, particularly in the context of threats to employment from new ways of work. We need to have a more ambitious solidarity-based concept of Social Protection against all risks, across the life cycle.
- Stronger welfare states need higher public spending/investment (a golden rule of 35% of GDP) and to effectively reduce poverty, financed through tax justice and fairer redistribution, including a financial transactions tax, and coordinated action on tax havens and evasion.
- The EU has a key role to play: in supporting upward social convergence on social protection and minimum income rights, requiring increased spending/fairer taxes but more hard law is also needed: EU framework Directives on minimum income and unemployment benefit.
- More accountable and participative governance involving civil society and people in poverty is key to drive a movement for stronger welfare states.
Director General Joost Korte, (DG Employment) shared his views on the way forward, the threats, challenges and opportunities: “The world is changing incredibly fast, it’s moving in a direction that many of us don’t like at all. The real challenge for the EU is to keep our level of prosperity. If we want to keep up the standards that we have and improve them, this requires a hugh effort. We really need you and your members for this.
It is not possible to abandon Social Europe, it’s such an essential part of the European Union.”
“Safeguarding social protection is the best way to fight poverty… and to save democracy!”, concluded EAPN President Sérgio Aires.
- EAPN Reflection Paper on Financing Social Protection
- EAPN position Paper on the Social Fairness Package, 2018
- EAPN Response to the European Pillar for Social RIghts
- Valérie Schmitt & Christina Berhend’s (ILO) presentation on financing social protection
Access to Social Protection and social inclusion is the third chapter of the European Pillar of Social Rights, with social protection specifically quoted in principle 12 “regardless of the type and duration of their employment relationship, workers, and under comparable conditions, the self-employed, have the right to social protection”. It is now a key element of the Commission’s new Social Fairness Package, with a proposal for a Council Recommendation to improve access to social protection, which will attempt to ensure that all ‘workers’ get access to ‘social protection’, including those currently categorized as ‘self-employed’. Principle 14 on ‘Minimum Income’, aims to provide a basic social assistance safety net for those who fall outside the ‘social protection’ net and is currently a key focus on EAPN’s work coordinating the EMIN project and bus awareness raising journey.
However, the ‘definition’ of social protection, currently at EU level, is limited to only those who are in employment, and ‘pay’ for coverage through work-based contributions. Those who fall outside receive only basic income support safety nets (minimum income). Such an approach fails to ensure equal rights to social protection, at all ages and to all groups, regardless of their employment status, risking increasing poverty and inequality, and undermining a more inclusive and sustainable development model.
The SDGs and in particular the ILO’s Social Protection Floor takes a broader definition on social protection as “basic social security guarantees which secure protection aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion’’ aiming to cover all groups for income security and access to public health and other services, through the life cycle. In the context of the future of work carrying major threats of unemployment and/or increasingly precarious work, an employment contributions model will increasingly leave more people behind and widen the inequality gap. A new concept of the welfare state and financing is needed, and this is what was explored in our conference.
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This event is supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Innovation “EaSI” (2014-2020). The information contained does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of the European Commission. For further information please consult: http://ec.europa.eu/social/easi.
 EPSR: Principle 14: Minimum income “Everyone lacking sufficient resources has the right to minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life, and effective access to enabling goods and services. For those who can work, minimum income benefits should be combined with incentives to integrate into the labour market.
 SDG Objective 1: End Poverty, in all its forms, includes the target: Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
 Access to a nationally defined set of goods and services, constituting essential health care, including maternity care, that meets the criteria of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality; b) basic income security for children, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, providing access to nutrition, education, care and any other necessary goods and services; c) basic income security, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, for persons in active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, in particular in cases of sickness, unemployment, maternity and disability; d) basic income security, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, for older persons.