Social protection in the EU

Building Back Better: Strengthening Social Protection in the EU

The UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe and the ILO jointly organized a webinar to explore promising practices and challenges for social protection systems in the EU. Panelists agreed that economic and social policies need to work in tandem.

News | 23 June 2020
A joint webinar of the UN Human Rights Regional Office for Europe and the ILO on “Building back better: strengthening social protection in the EU” brought together experts from the United Nations, the European Commission, EU social partners, national human rights institutions and civil society.

Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, referred to the crisis as a “once in a lifetime opportunity to strengthen social protection as a way to equip societies to better respond to crises, support recovery and support businesses to recruit workers despite uncertainties”. “The current crisis gives us an idea of the crises that are still to come, such as the climate crisis,” he added.

Adequately financed social protection systems can enhance macro-economic performance e.g. by increasing aggregate demand. “Social protection is very developed in the EU, and the EU Member States have among the highest ratification rates of ILO social security standards,” said Kroum Markov from the ILO Social Protection Department. However, there are still challenges regarding the implementation of these standards, which are linked to the future of work and the evolving labour market.

The representatives of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and BusinessEurope stressed that the social partners have an important role to play in the design of social protection systems. Both employers and employees contribute financially to these systems, so it is key that they are involved and that there is a good balance.

This COVID-19 health crisis has had an unequal effect on people. “Those who were able to quarantine themselves and continue to work from home, with good schools for their children and good healthcare systems, have had a very different impact then those who could not benefit from these systems,” said Shahra Razavi, Director of the ILO Social Protection Department.

“To support a human-centred future, where human rights are enjoyed by everyone, economic and social policies need to work in tandem, and social protection systems are the best catalyzer we have for reconciling social and economic policy,” she concluded.