The annual report by the Social Protection Committee (SPC) provides an overview of the impact of the decisive action taken by Member States to protect employment, income and access to services in response to COVID-19.
The report finds that the widespread positive developments in the social situation up until early 2020 were unfortunately interrupted and even reversed by the pandemic as containment measures were implemented to fight the spread of COVID-19 and protect the lives and livelihoods of citizens.
Nevertheless, the social impact of the crisis was mitigated by the range of measures adopted by Member States to protect employment and support household incomes.
- Social protection systems were the main stabilisation factor in supporting household incomes.
- Social benefits, including short time working schemes, played a major role in mitigating the overall drop in household incomes in 2020.
- Access to social protection systems was often temporarily eased in order to increase the effectiveness of the systems in protecting those who lost their job or income.
- Although the overall situation has been improving over 2021 as the EU recovers from the crisis, there remains a need to address the longer-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
- Social protection systems are expected to remain under pressure in the short and medium term.
- To rebuild from the crisis and prepare better for future emergencies, Member States should continue to prioritise measures to combat poverty and social exclusion, to address rising income inequalities, as well as to enhance the resilience of social protection systems.
- National responses should continue to focus on the situation of the vulnerable and include mechanisms to support them. The European Pillar of Social Rights should continue to guide Member States’ reform efforts and its principles should continue to be systematically implemented.