What future for the Welfare State in the EU ?
At the launch of its new report on “The Future of the Welfare State”, Caritas Europa has described welfare as one of the most critical issues to be faced by the EU and its Member States as they struggle to respond to the economic crisis.
Caritas organisations across Europe work on the front line with people experiencing poverty and social exclusion. The report, edited by Robert Urbé of Caritas Luxembourg with significant contribution from a number of Caritas organisations, provides an analysis of five different welfare models that currently co-exist in the European Union.
Five different welfare systems
These models consist of the Bismarckian Social Security System, the Beveridge Welfare System, the Scandinavian Welfare Model, the Mediterranean Welfare Approach, and the Central- and Eastern European model. The preparation of the report started already five years ago, but with the economic crisis deepening every year, many parts of the publication had to be re-written, with invaluable contribution from Caritas organisations across Europe.
“The five different welfare models are, obviously, not converging into one European model. So, how can the European social models preserve cohesion and a good life for everyone, through all five models? This is the biggest question today and in the near future,” said Robert Urbé when presenting the book to Brussels-based decision makers in September.
The new study reveals considerable differences in the way that European Member States guarantee adequate levels of social protection to their citizens. It raises several interesting questions in relation to the future of welfare states in Europe. It suggests that the impact of the recent economic crisis combined with other factors such as changing demographics across Member States have strengthened the case for reform of welfare systems. It questions whether Europe’s different models of welfare should continue to function independently, or whether some level of ‘convergence’ of welfare models should take place.
Caritas Europa Secretary General, Mr Jorge Nuño Mayer hopes that the report will be useful to European decision makers, academics and other major stakeholders. “This comparative study will be valuable not only to European decision makers in their quest for a sustainable welfare state, but also to social partners, civil society organisations and anyone interested in contributing to a future welfare society. We all are concerned,” he said.
Combination of a strong welfare state and strong economy
The preface to the report has been written by the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Claude Juncker, who underlined that “We are moving towards a new type of economy and society, both of which call for a new model of social policy. Therefore we have to transform the welfare state of the 19th and 20th centuries into a strong and positive political network of social subsidiarity and political priorities: full employment, inclusive growth, investments in families and young people, strong social security, decent retirement and active health policy.” Mr Juncker concluded: “The only way to get us out of the current crisis is a wise combination of a strong welfare state, strong economy and strong budget consolidation.”
“The Future of the Welfare State” will also serve as a basis for further research by Caritas Europa on the future of welfare in Europe. The organisation intends to focus on the issue of social models in Europe over the coming years and to develop proposals for their reform and development.
The new report is among series of studies Caritas Europa where grass-root work of Caritas organisations all across Europe is used as a unique source of information, contributing to the debate on how to improve the lives of people experiencing poverty and social exclusion. Caritas Europa will soon present its new edition of the “Shadow Report” on the Europe 2020 Strategy as well as a 2014 edition of the “Crisis Monitoring Report”. Other upcoming studies include an in-depth analysis on food security and the “right to food” on a global level.
According to Jorge Nuño-Mayer, “The economic crisis has given an excuse for many political decisions that are threatening the welfare state. The EU has to be a social EU. Otherwise, there won’t be a European Union”.