01/10/2015 – On 29 September 2015, the researchers of the FP7 funded SOPHIE Project held a Conference during which they presented key findings of the research through moderated discussions with representatives of the European civil society and EU Institutions. The Project evaluated the impact of current social and economic policies on health inequalities in Europe with focus on the following areas: macroeconomic policies, welfare state, labour market, built environment, housing, gender and migration. The conclusions of the project bring data-based evidence reaffirming that restrictions and liberalisation of the EU economic and social policies in times of the recession and austerity measures have negative impact on the well-being of people. Sian Jones, Policy Coordinator at EAPN, discussant on the Panel on ‘Crisis, Austerity, Welfare and Employment’, welcomed the findings that good-quality social protection systems mitigated the impact of austerity and reduced health inequalities.
She highlighted the importance of integrated social protection systems as part of integrated active inclusion approaches, ensuring effective transitions between unemployment benefit and minimum income, access to quality services as well as inclusive labour market inclusion strategies, under which the poverty prevention should be the first step towards improving the well-being of people.
Final Conference of the European Research Project SOPHIE: The impact on health and equity of social and economic policies, 29. September 2015
- Research project looking at the impact of social and economic policies on health
- The project looked at the health implications of macroeconomic policies, labour market policies, welfare state policies, housing policies, gender equality policies and integration policies in the European countries (special focus on Southern European countries such as Spain and Italy)
Urban environment and Housing:
- Looking at the impact of social segregation and build environment on health in disadvantaged neighbourhoods in Turin, Barcelona and Netherlands; the connections between housing policies and energy and mortgage poverty
- Paula Rey from DG Energy highlighted the importance of the Energy Efficiency Legislation; Ruth Owen from FEANTSA highlighted the importance of the housing-first approach
- Sian Jones, EAPN, raised question if integrated approach to tackling energy poverty was taken into account in the research
Crisis, Austerity, Welfare and Employment:
- Presenting findings that while recession can have some positive impacts on health, austerity has mostly negative (especially in terms of suicide rate); The research data show that generous social protection policies (such as unemployment benefits) and active labour market inclusion have a positive impact on health; precarious types of employment have a negative impact on mental health
- Sian Jones, EAPN, stressed that evidence is important but not a key for changes of policies, what we need is political will. She continued with explaining that the in determining the impacts of social protection systems on the well-being of a person we first need to take in the account the definition of social protection (it should include the right to accessminimum income and package of social benefits), the coverage of the social protection across social groups and the issue of take-up (not exercising the right to social protection due to stigmatisation and/or low level of awareness). In improving health consequences of the social policies the approach of the Integrated activation strategy should be used (adequate income, inclusive labour market, accessible quality services).
- Presentation of the cross-national findings of self-perceived mental health based on gender (comparison between Southern, Central, Market-orientated, Northern and Eastern European Countries); evaluation of the impact of the Spanish Dependence Act on the health of care-givers
- Isabel de la Mata, DG Sante, stressed that gender impact assessment would need to be included in the policies related to health although this is not in place in the DG Sante ; the only new development so far is that the new EC Strategy on the equality between men and women will include the section on health
Conclusions of the project:
- Economic recession with fiscal policies have a (negative) impact on health of the EU citizens
- Generous social protection policies reduce poverty and improve health
- High quality employment in a regulated labour market is beneficial for workers’ health and reduces inequality
- Urban planning impacts heath equity
- Housing policies can reduce health inequalities
- Gender policies influence gender inequalities in health
- Integration policies make a difference on immigrants’ health
SirpaPiethainen, EPP MEP, concluded that we should work towards achieving the goal that social policies become part of the EU competences, that macroeconomic indicators in the European Semester include dimension of gender, social services and access to health care, that Directive on Minimum Income and Directive on Public Services are adopted.
More information: http://www.sophie-project.eu/index.htm