This page lists the ten policy domains and their respective principles under the category "Adequate and sustainable social protection".

Integrated social benefits and services

In some cases, the multiplicity of benefits and services, agencies, and application procedures make it difficult for people to access all the support that they need. Lack of integrated benefits and services also reduces their effectiveness in addressing poverty, as well as supporting social and labour market integration. A three-fold alignment between social benefits, active support and social services is key to effective support. Such alignment should concern eligibility and coverage, coordinated offers of support and maintaining some entitlements when re-entering work or self-employment. Better integration of benefits and services can improve the cost-effectiveness of social protection.

More on this policy domain

Health care and sickness benefits

Population ageing is putting increased pressure on the financial sustainability of health systems and the ability to provide adequate healthcare for all. For instance, high cost of treatment relative to income, or too long waiting periods can lead to unmet needs for medical care. Ensuring universal access to high quality care while guaranteeing the financial sustainability of health systems, encouraging the cost-effective provision of care, and encouraging health promotion and disease prevention requires increased efforts in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health systems, and can improve the ability of healthcare systems to cope with the challenges. Arrangements for sickness benefits and/or paid sick leave vary considerably in what concerns waiting days, duration, replacement levels and control mechanisms. Securing an adequate minimum replacement level of sickness benefits and encouraging rehabilitation and reintegration while, simultaneously, maintaining the financial sustainability of such schemes remains a challenge.

More on this policy domain


Rising longevity and a shrinking working age population raise a double challenge of ensuring the financial sustainability of pensions and being able to provide an adequate income in retirement. Linking the statutory age to life expectancy and reducing the gap between the effective and statutory retirement age by avoiding early exit from the labour force are important for reconciling the long-term sustainability of public finances while maintaining inter-generational fairness. Pension inadequacy is an additional challenge in several Member States. A high gender pension gap also exists in most countries, with women's lower earnings and accumulated career gaps leading to lower pension contributions, and ultimately lower pension entitlements. The self-employed and those in atypical employment also experience higher pension adequacy risks and lower coverage of occupational pensions.

More on this policy domain

Unemployment benefits

Effective unemployment benefits succeed to allow job search and improve skills matching, provide economic security during unemployment spells, prevent poverty and allow automatic stabilisation in economic downturns. In some cases the coverage of unemployment benefits is very low due to strict eligibility requirements. The duration of benefits in some Member States, as well as the enforcement of conditions for job search and participation in active support are a concern.

More on this policy domain

Minimum income

Minimum income for persons in or at risk of poverty and lacking other means of subsistence is provided by most but not all Member States. However, current challenges include inadequacy of benefit levels making it impossible for beneficiaries to escape poverty, low coverage, and non-take-up of minimum income support due to complexity in accessing these arrangements.

More on this policy domain


People with disabilities are at much higher risk of poverty and social exclusion than the general population. They face the lack of adequate accessibility in the work-place, discrimination and tax-benefit disincentives. The design of disability benefits can lead to benefit traps, for example when benefits are withdrawn entirely once (re-)entering employment. The availability of support services can also affect the capacity to participate in employment and community life.

More on this policy domain

Long-term care

Population ageing, changing family structures and women's increased participation in the labour market all contribute to the increased demand for long-term care services. Ensuring access to adequate long-term care services, while guaranteeing the financial sustainability of long-term care systems, requires increased efforts in improving the provision and financing of long-term care.

More on this policy domain


Childcare services improve the cognitive and social development of children and enhance educational and labour market prospects later on in life. Limited access and quality, however, remain major obstacles and hamper children’s development.

More on this policy domain


Lack of adequate housing and housing insecurity continues to be a large concern across the EU, leading to increasing financial risk taking, evictions, arrears in rental and mortgage payments, and in some extreme cases, homelessness. Lack of adequate housing also remains a barrier for the establishment of young people on the labour market and for fulfilment of life plans and independent living.

More on this policy domain

Access to essential services

Essential services, such as broadband, transport, energy (such as electricity and heating) and financial services (such as a bank accounts), are not always available or accessible to everyone in need of them. Barriers to access include affordability, lack of infrastructure, or failure to meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities.