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EU urged to make permanent changes to social security provision to protect vulnerable workers

URGENT and permanent improvements to social security provision are needed across the European Union, trade unions warned today as the coronavirus pandemic forces countries to introduce emergency reforms.

Research by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) found that 24 out of the neoliberal bloc’s 27 member states had increased the value, duration or eligibility conditions of unemployment benefits or income support.

The study found that while the reforms implemented during the crisis have been positive, they were temporary measures and some have already ended. Self-employed workers were left largely unprotected and unable to access social security provisions.

“This abrupt health crisis underlined acute gaps in social protection systems,” the ETUI report concluded.

In 2019, the European Council agreed a recommendation that social protection systems must be made “fit for the future” by extending coverage to non-standard workers and the self-employed, who now make up 40 per cent of the workforce.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said that the emergency measures implemented as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic must now lead to more permanent and thorough reforms that protect all workers, regardless of status.

“Europe’s welfare systems have fallen behind the pace of change in the economy over decades and the Covid crisis badly exposed the huge gaps that were created,” said ETUC confederal secretary Liina Carr.

“It is the poorest and most disadvantaged people in society who are falling through those gaps in the social safety net, particularly women, people from ethnic minorities and young people.

“Emergency measures showed that change is possible,” she argued, urging the EU to act on the 2019 recommendation and build social security systems across the bloc that are fit for the future.

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