Demographic changes, resulting in a shrinking workforce and an ageing population, transformations on the labour market and the digital and green transitions, as well as the emergence of new risks are impacting social welfare systems. To understand how these trends impact social protection and welfare systems and what type of response is needed, the European Commission formed a High-Level Group of Experts (HLG) to carry out an analysis.

The final report of the HLG, also a concrete outcome of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, was launched in Brussels on 7 February at an event that brought together policymakers, social partners, key stakeholders and high-level experts to discuss the implications and visions of the report.

Launch event

Opening the event, Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, stressed the importance of “an active and preventative welfare state especially in this period of high uncertainty and violence around us.” Anna Diamontopolous, Chair of the HLG and who was presenting the report, agreed with the Commissioner that “crisis has become a normality, we must learn to live with it and develop resilient social systems”. This report, she continued “serves as a guide for how to navigate through this new normality.”

The report sets out a vision on how to reinforce and finance social protection systems and the welfare state considering ongoing and new challenges, in the medium to long-term. A central point in the report is that welfare provision needs to be viewed from a life-course perspective: from early life working life, and old age, which will provide financial and quality of life gains. Social investment in education, care and living conditions and active ageing can reduce future spending on income additional support thanks to employment and health gains.

ESN response to the report

ESN, represented by CEO Alfonso Lara-Montero, was invited to give its perspective at the launch event in a session discussing the crucial role of social services in combatting poverty within social welfare.

In line with the HLG’s stance on the life-course perspective, Mr Lara-Montero explained that “social services are crucial components to successfully implementing a life course approach, as populations across all ages find when they are confronted with life difficulties.” On the topic of early investment, Mr Montero, highlighted that “when we discuss quality in early childhood education and care we should not forget other social services for children such as state and foster care.”

With regards to active ageing, ESN has for many years been promoting community-based care and independent living. However, Mr Montero pointed out that community-based services should have had a more prominent role in the HLG report as a key response to supporting an increasingly ageing society.

ESN recommendations for social services

In cooperation with Eurodiaconia, ESN will organise a webinar on 14 March at 14:00 to discuss joint recommendations in response to the High-Level Group Report. In addition to recommendations for social services to build resilient welfare states, the webinar will provide a platform for exchange between policy makers and social services on the future of the welfare state. Register here