Six new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on recent social policy developments in Belgium, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
- The Belgian governmental agreement for 2014-2019 included a long list of changes to the pension system. Many of these have since been implemented. The most striking reform was the increase in the legal pension age to 66 by 2025 and 67 by 2030. The focus of this Flash Report is on less outstanding aspects where substantial changes have also already occurred (the transparency of the pension system and the broader coverage of second pillar pensions) or where discussions are on-going (the definition of arduous jobs, the introduction of a notional point system and the linking of the legal retirement age to life expectancy).
- The Greek social welfare system has undergone a major reform: new means-tested benefits have been introduced, the existing ones have been reformed and measures have been taken to facilitate access and to improve management and delivery. The reform is expected to strengthen the welfare system through better targeting, increased efficiency and less fragmentation.
- Various analyses of the Lithuanian educational system reveal that education policy does not target inequalities in access to education. This issue was also overlooked in the comprehensive report published by the Lithuanian Education Council in 2017, which stressed the fragmentation of educational policy and recommended a common vision to be developed.
- For a long time, Slovakia has performed poorly in providing formal childcare for children under three. Maternal employment in the country is low and mothers face high wage penalties when returning to the labour market. Legislative measures for the development of childcare facilities for children under three have recently been proposed and are expected to be adopted this autumn. However, the reasonableness and cost of some requirements are currently the subject of public debate.
- In March 2018, the Spanish government published the new State Housing Plan for 2018-2021. Through a series of schemes to support rental housing, urban rehabilitation and renovation, the plan seeks to facilitate access to housing for the most vulnerable groups, and to reactivate employment in the construction sector. The aim is to strike a new balance in access to housing, currently excessively based on ownership and on the production of new dwellings.
- In December 2017, the Swedish “Pension Group” agreed on a new “Deal” which covers all three schemes of the country’s statutory pension system, i.e. the statutory funded pension scheme, the guarantee pension and the statutory pension scheme (income pension). The Deal is mainly about principles and a number of specific policy instruments still need to be designed. In May and July 2018, the Social Democratic Party, which is currently leading the government, made additional proposals. Even though they were heavily criticised, these proposals are important because they put the pension system high on the political agenda.