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Social protection

Social protection systems are highly developed in the European Union. They protect people against the risks of inadequate incomes associated with unemployment, illness and invalidity, parental responsibilities, old age or inadequate income following the loss of a spouse or parent. They also guarantee access to services that are essential for a life in dignity.

More recently, the European Union has also started promoting a closer cooperation among the Member States on the modernisation of social protection systems which face similar challenges across the EU. Based on the Open Method of Coordination (OMC), this mechanism provides support to national policy makers - government departments for social affairs, finance, employment, social partners, and civil society - and this in two fields:

  • In the field of pensions, where it contributes to defining common objectives, in particular to achieve higher employment rates and to extend working lives, and by defining common indicators so that each country can assess its own situation and performance against them.
  • In the field of health and long-term care, where it supports policy makers in their efforts to achieve universal access, high quality and financial sustainability of their health and long-term care systems.

The contribution of the EU to modernise social protection systems adds also value in two other closely related fields.

  • In the field of social and health services of general interest, the EU is currently developing a more systematic approach in order to assist the Member States in maintaining high quality and universal access to these services and in their modernisation.
  • Information on the organisation of the main social protection schemes in the Member States is compiled by MISSOC (Mutual Information System on Social protection), together with a network of correspondents from national authorities