The Social Protection Committee Annual Report 2016: social situation in the EU

This page includes the most recent deliverables of the Social Protection Committee (SPC), an EU Treaty-based advisory policy committee for the Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO). The SPC monitors the social situation in the EU and the development of social protection policies in the Member States. It provides a representative forum for multilateral social policy coordination, dialogue and cooperation at EU level, bringing together policy makers from all EU Member States and the Commission.

The SPC recommendations are closely linked to the fulfillment of the social inclusion ex ante conditionality of the ESI Funds that require Member States to implement a national strategic policy framework for poverty reduction, aiming at active inclusion.  This national strategic policy framework must provide “a sufficient evidence base to develop policies for poverty reduction and monitor developments”.  Accordingly, the national strategic policy framework is to be based on an analysis of the Member State’s poverty reduction potential, indicators relevant to active inclusion, an analysis covering all three strands of active inclusion separately (adequate income support, labour market activation and access to enabling services), address the comprehensive and integrated nature of the strategy and highlight areas in need of improvement, as well as the proposed/implemented measures. ƒ 

For reference see Guidance on Ex ante Conditionalities for the European Structural and Investment Funds PART II page 262 – available here.

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The full SPC Annual report 2016 can be downloaded here.

Each year, the SPC has prepared its annual overview on the social situation in the EU and the developments in social protection policies based on the Social Protection Performance Monitor (SPPM) and Member States’ reporting. It analyses the progress towards the Europe 2020 target on reducing poverty and social exclusion together with the latest social trends to watch. The most recent social policy developments in Europe are also reported on as well as the key structural social challenges currently faced by each Member State.

The SPC highlights findings and common priorities for social policy reforms which should guide the preparatory work for the 2017 Annual Growth Survey.   The following are some of the key findings:

3. … the EU continues to be far off-track in reaching its 2020 social inclusion target, with overall figures for the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion rate continuing to point to stagnation at a high level.

  1. Policy reforms based on an active inclusion approach, combining adequate income support, high quality social services and support for activation to encourage labour market (re)integration, continue to be necessary. Ensuring and improving coverage and take-up of benefit schemes should be achieved through simplifying access to benefits, avoiding very strict low income targeting and careful consideration of the adequacy of benefits. To avoid the fragmentation of service delivery, Member states should make better efforts to introduce and provide integrated services tailored to individual needs. Incentives to work should be enhanced.

12. In the vast majority of Member States challenges are identified in relation to poverty or social exclusion for persons in vulnerable situations, making it clear that the inclusiveness and fairness of social protection systems is a key challenge across the EU. Reducing child poverty and breaking the poverty cycle across generations require integrated strategies that combine prevention and support. These strategies should aim at facilitating support to parents’ access to the labour market, and enhancing preventive approaches through early intervention and increased support to families.

The SPC Annual Report 2016 details that in the case of children:

The at-risk-of-poverty-or-social-exclusion rate appears to be a key challenge in 7 Member States (BG, EL, ES, HU, LU, MT, RO), with FI displaying particularly good social outcomes in this regard. An analysis of the subcomponents of this indicator shows that monetary poverty of children is a key challenge in 3 Member States (ES, LT and LU), severe material deprivation of children in 1 MS (EL), and the share of children living in (quasi-) jobless households in 4 MS (BE, CY, HU and IE).

The impact of social transfers in reducing child poverty, the at-risk-of poverty rate of children living in households with different levels of work intensity and the poverty gap are indicative of how effective social protection of children is in a given country. Based on these indicators, effectiveness challenges have been identified for 13 Member States (DE, ES, IT, LT, LU, LV, MT, NL, PL, PT, SI, SK, UK) and particularly good outcomes in DK and IE. The housing situation for children appears as a particular challenge in LV and PT.

14. Access to adequate, affordable and quality long-term care, with an increasing focus on preventing the need for long-term care, remains a priority. This may imply a shift from a primarily reactive to an increasingly proactive policy approach, such as in social and health care, which seeks both to prevent the loss of autonomy and thus reduce the need for long-term care services, and to boost effective and good quality long-term care, integrating the health and social care elements of long-term care provision.

The SPC Annual Report 2016 details that:

The National Reform Programmes of 2016 (developed in the context of the European Semester policy cycle) reveal that the policy measures in the area of long-term care focus mainly on improving cost-effectiveness and addressing concerns over provision and access to adequate long-term care services. The measures adopted by some Member States aim at addressing these challenges through structural reforms such as a shift from institutional to community-based care, strengthened support to informal carers and improved policies for prevention, rehabilitation and independent living. However, more efforts are necessary to ensure the sustainability of long-term care and to facilitate the access to adequate, affordable and quality long-term care. In order to achieve this, Member States should adopt a proactive policy approach, promoting independent living and preventing the loss of autonomy, reducing thus the need for long-term care services. (SPC Annual Report 2016, page 26)

One of the key social challenges stated in the SPC Annual Report 2016 is:

The insufficient provision of long-term care services or sub-optimal design of the long-term care system has been identified as a key challenge in Spain (ES), Italy (IT), Slovenia (SI) and Slovakia (SK).

16. Social investment, preventive approaches and gender mainstreaming in policy formation are needed to strengthen all people’s capacities to participate actively in society and the economy. Social impact assessment should be included in policy development and the distributional impact of different policy options be considered.

The SPC Annual Report 2016 details that:

Looking specifically at the risk of poverty and social exclusion of persons in vulnerable situations, the analysis shows particular challenges concerning persons with disabilities (in 14 Member States – BE, BG, CZ, CY, DE, EE, ES, FI, LT, LV, MT, NL, RO, SE), Roma (in 5 Member States – BG, ES, HU, RO, SK), migrants and refugees (in 6 Member States – AT, DE, DK, ES, FR, NL), and low-skilled and unemployed people (in 3 Member States – BE, EE, MT). Concerning persons with disabilities, particularly positive outcomes can be noted in AT, FR, LU, and SK.

17. Overall, improving the performance of social protection systems in terms of poverty prevention and reduction, including through effective social insurance and social assistance as well as social investment, will be essential to progress towards achieving the 2020 poverty and social exclusion target and contribute to continuous improvement of employment and social outcomes in the EU. Member States should maintain their efforts and ensure that social protection systems deliver better social outcomes while maximising the positive impact on employment and growth.

The SPC Annual Report 2016 is accompanied by 5 Annexes that can be found here.

Annex 1 – Detailed review of the latest social developments in the EU: SPPM results.
Annex 2 – Detailed review of recent social policy reforms and initiatives (2015-2016).
Annex 3 – Main policy conclusions from the 2015-2016 thematic and peer reviews.
Annex 4 – Relevant Council Conclusions (October 2015 – September 2016).
Annex 5 – SPPM Country Profiles.
Country Codes:
Belgium (BE) Greece (EL) Lithuania (LT) Portugal (PT)
Bulgaria (BG) Spain (ES) Luxembourg (LU) Romania (RO)
Czech Republic (CZ) France (FR) Hungary (HU) Slovenia (SI)
Denmark (DK) Croatia (HR) Malta (MT) Slovakia (SK)
Germany (DE) Italy (IT) Netherlands (NL) Finland (FI)
Estonia (EE) Cyprus (CY) Austria (AT) Sweden (SE)
Ireland (IE) Latvia (LV) Poland (PL) United Kingdom (UK)
Links to further information

A full list of SPC Members can be downloaded here.

Website of the SPC.

The 2016 social reporting done by Member States in the context of the SPC work and the social OMC can be found here.

The latest 2016 country-specific profiles, part of the Social Protection Performance Monitor (SPPM), which summarize progress towards the 2020 poverty and social exclusion target, the main social statistics for each Member State as well as key social challenges and good social outcomes can be found here.

Information on the European Semester process can be found here.

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