Council conclusions on the Europe 2020 mid-term review and the European Semester

On 3 October 2014, the EU Council’s Social Protection Committee (SPC) has adopted its opinion on the Europe 2020 Strategy and the European Semester. The document also gives guidelines for the next Annual Growth Survey (AGS) to be released in November, as starting point for the 2015 European Semester. The report calls for more social investment in prevention, care and human capital, including for older workers. On pension reforms, it highlights that adequacy must be maintained while working on sustainability.

The SPC calls for a stronger attention to the long-term social objectives in the Annual Growth Survey. The Committee calls for the next AGS to recognise the role of social protection in providing safeguards to citizens across their life-cycle. It also stresses social investment to prevent risks from realising. Also, the Committee would like to have the gender dimension strengthened in the policies deriving from the Europe 2020 Strategy.

The Committee explicitly refers to ‘those that retired from the labour market’ and that they should benefit from adequate social protection. Social protection is put forwards as an economic stabiliser, but it is highlighted that it has to produce outcomes and be cost-efficient.

Social benefits as investment in human capital

The Committee calls for social benefits to be seen as investment into human capital, leading towards the labour market. Therefore, conditionality of benefits should be held low and adequacy must be maintained. Benefits should also be met by continuous support for the reintegration into the labour market.

Health and long-term care: more focus on prevention

On health care, the Committee sees a rising importance deriving from chronic diseases and the ageing of society. It calls for redirecting finances that have been saved through measures improving cost-effectiveness towards prevention. The same holds true, in the eyes of the Committee for long-term care: in order to contain the rising needs, an investment in age-friendly environments, prevention and rehabilitation is needed.

Pensions: new mix between sustainability and adequacy

The SPC calls for ensuring the adequacy of pensions. As solutions an increasingly inclusive labour market for both the young and the old, and the reduction of pre-retirement schemes are promoted. Also, the SPC highlights the importance of the development of ‘cost) effective and safe’ complementary savings. Positively, the SPC points to the role played by pension indexation and strengthening equity in pensions with regard to working conditions, career breaks and equality between men and women. Also, the SPC calls for better opportunities for older workers to stay in employment.

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