In Making the link: Improving Health and Health Equity through Strong Social Protection Systems, EuroHealthNet explores the European initiatives that are shaping national changes in social protection. It gives examples from Finland, Scotland, and Slovakia showing how changes to social systems are affecting health. It shows what else can be done to support a fair and sustainable economic recovery, where decent and healthy work and social investments are central.
Social protection systems are systems which help people meet needs in life and protect them and their families against risks. Those needs and risks can be associated with parental and caring responsibilities, sickness, healthcare, disability, old age, housing, unemployment, and social exclusion. Examples include social assistance and social insurance, as well as emerging minimum and basic income schemes. These are ‘safety nets’, and ways to reduce relative poverty and income inequalities. Social protection measures can also include social investments in creating healthy, resilient, and equal societies and communities.
“COVID-19 has further highlighted the ways in which health is linked to social protection schemes. National governments have scrambled to find new ways to protect those unable to work due to the pandemic, and all governments are trying to minimise the long-term economic impacts. Meanwhile, there is a concern to build new systems which are fairer and able to cope with demographic change. The European Council will meet next week to discuss Europe’s economic recovery, as well as changing markets and the digital transition. It should be clear now that health and social equity cannot be ignored in these decisions.” – says Caroline Costongs, EuroHealthNet Director.
Whether sick pay, parental leave, pensions, or housing support, social protection schemes clearly influence our ability to live in good health and to prosper as we grow and age. At the same time, good health throughout the life course affects our ability to contribute to social protection systems, and the ways we use them.
This new publication from the EuroHealthNet Policy Précis series provides examples of EU policies and programmes, such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, the EU Child Guarantee, the European Social Fund plus, and pathways to progress following the principles of an 'economy of wellbeing'.
The policy precis indicates that social welfare spending should be put on an equal footage as healthcare budgets, if not more so, for improved, inclusive and sustainable population health.