Thematic Focuses

The EU-Level Report
The EU-Level Report is the final stage in the ETUC SociAll Project, in support of trade union objectives in the field of social protection, including the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Based on information in the National Reports for the 12 countries in the Project, it takes stock of challenges reported in achieving formal and effective coverage and pensions adequacy, and indicates possible elements in a programme to address these challenges.

The study
Pensions Policy at the European Level (EN - DE - ES - FR - IT - PL)

Access to Social Protection for All at the time of Covid-19: The role of the EPSR and the NGEU

The Covid-19 crisis has affected social and labour market policy in many respects. Pensions - that are apparently immune from the effects of the pandemic - have also been challenged by its economic and social consequences. This paper is a first exploratory study of the way new instruments like the Recovery and Resilience Facility (that is big part of the Next Generation EU (NGEU) have affected pension policy and the present and future wellbeing of the elderly. The paper refers to a broad spectrum of policy fields that affect old age and the main social risk of this period of each life. In the aftermath of the pandemic crisis, in fact, the EU reviewed its economic and social governance, with the increase of its fiscal capacity and the further support of the economic growth of the Member States.

The study

Access to Social Protection for All at the time of Covid-19: The role of the EPSR and the NGEU (EN - FR - IT)

Pensions at the time of Covid-19: Challenges and policies across Europe
Webinar and expert study

The pandemic’s effects on employment rate and workers’ income, as well as the measures undertaken in its waves, pose crucial questions on both the short-term effects and the longer-term challenges for pension policy in the future. These might crucially influence the political and economic context of an ambitious implementation of the Recommendation on access to social protection and reform the national pension systems.

What has the impact of the pandemic been on old-age protection? What measures have been taken by EU Member States in the aftermath of the crisis? And what will the expected challenges be to pension policy and politics?

The discussion at the webinar fed a paper that will firstly provide an overview of the measures undertaken across member states during the pandemic, showing how the impact of the pandemic is influenced by the national and European pension models and governance systems. The webinar will also show how the pandemic has had an unprecedent impact on GDP growth, even greater than the financial crisis of 2009. In spite of the impact on debt and deficit with respect to the GDP ratio, however, the policy and financial coordination at EU level (SURE) seems to have promptly limited the socio—economic effects on labour market. A coordination role of international financial institutions and of public authorities seem also to have also financial markets seems to have somehow balanced the backlash on saving assets and retirement schemes.

Tangible examples of different approaches to pension reforms across Europe, with respect to challenges raised by the crisis, will show how, beyond the economic data, there is a great role for policy makers to introduce innovative ideas in the economic governance of pension expenditure, and to adopt a more value-based approach in facing the challenges ahead.

The European Union must maximise the added value of its united political intervention in the social and economic governance of the crisis and develop an renewed, more coherent approach to rights- and needs-based and fiscal rules in pension policy.

The sudy
The Impact of Covid-19 on the future of pensions in the EU (EN - FR - DE - IT)

Documents related to the event:

AgendaConcept noteFirst steps for the Discussion paper in the framework of the ETUC SociAll project – PPT

Background documents:

ETUI Policy Brief N°13/2020 (European Economic, Employment and Social Policy), Pensions in the age of Covid-19: recent changes and future challenges, David Natali

Tripartite round table on pension trends and reforms, Record of Proceedings, ILO

ETUC SociAll -Social Protection for All, the EPSR Action Plan and the demographic challenge
Online Conference

The European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan represents a first step towards EU Social Summit, where the Action Plan will be endorsed.

The European Pillar of Social Rights must not remain a theoretical list of principles but must be implemented so as to improve the quality of life of all European people in all stages of life. It must foster solutions based on innovativeness, concreteness and ambition, in order to grant enhanced equality, social progress, and improved well-being to all. The Action Plan thus must tackle people’s actual problems in the current and upcoming challenges.

Nowadays, such challenges must be framed in the context of an increasingly ageing society. The EU demographic trends raise a series of societal and economic challenges, for our education paths, labour markets and social protection and especially pension systems.

The Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed already represents an effort in giving concreteness to the Principles 12 and 15 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, by tackling the issues of formal and effective coverage and adequacy of social protection.

The Action plan implementing the European Pillar of Social Right can deliver in terms of solidarity and equality-based solutions to the demographic challenge: by enhancing upward convergence on equal opportunities, labour rights, working conditions, wages, social protection systems; by promoting equality, just transition, civil and social dialogue, collective bargaining, and workplace democracy; by making the EU economic governance socially fair and inclusive.

While the demographic trends may put public expenditure for pensions, health and long-term care under pressure, the Action Plan calls for a “demographic change that is fair and just”. In line with the Pillar, it does so by promoting the strict relations among the phases before, during and after the working age – as per a life-cycle approach recalled also by the EC Report on Demography and the Green Paper on Ageing. The Action Plan offers policy tools (and precise targets) in support of an ambitious implementation of the Recommendation on Access to Social Protection for workers and the self-employed. By calling for better equal opportunities, higher inclusiveness of the labour markets and a further reflection on how to fund social protection, it enhances the chances to grant more adequate and fiscally sustainable protection to both the present and the future elderly generations.

This online European conference on “the Road to Porto” was organised in the framework of the EU funded project “ETUC-SociAll” and in cooperation with the multi-stakeholder Alliance “Stand Up for the Social Pillar”. On the eve of the third EU day on Solidarity between Generations,  the conference offered the opportunity to explore the potential of the Action plan in facing the social and economic challenges raised by the demographic trends in Europe especially with regards to pension policy.

Please find here the documents related to the event:
Presentation of the eventAgenda, Photo gallery, Report of the Conference, Speaking notes: Vice-President Suica, Brando Benifei MEP, Tea Jarc ETUC Youth Committee, Liina Carr ETUC

Background documents:


Revisiting EU social indicators: a needs-driven approach from a workers’ perspective
ETUC SociAll webinar and expert study by 
Jozef Pacolet*, Josef Wöss**, Frederic De Wispelaere* & Lynn De Smedt* - *HIVA, KU Leuven; ** Arbeiterkammer Wien

The fast and unanimous acceptation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017, gave the EU an unprecedented boost to develop further the social market economy, that tries to combine economic and social progress. Social indicators are increasingly added to the traditional economic indicators, but they acquire their own place, as is the case with the scoreboard for the follow up of the European Social Pillar. This brings monitoring of social policy close to or in the core of the economic policy, as it should be.

Within the SociAll project, the ETUC has launched a webinar and an expert study - to be published shortly - providing comments and inputs to the Monitoring Framework on Access to Social Protection, and its capacity to mirror the complex social reality that impact the adequate and effective pensions.

A ‘version 0’ of the Monitoring framework to assess the implementation of the Recommendation on access to social protection elaborated by the European Commission and endorsed by the Council’s Social Protection Committee and  was recently published, proposing monitoring indicators in the field of social protection, such as adequacy of pensions and coverage gaps in social protection systems. The first part of the presentation proposes a critical assessment this version “zero” of the monitoring framework, that takes into account the trade union views elaborated and shared in the context of a dedicated European Social Partners hearing organised in mid-April by the EC and the SPC, to gather the first-hand feedbacks from the workers’ and employers’ sides. 

A further part of the presentation focuses on how existing indicators can be complemented or corrected. The focus would be on reading and understanding data, as well as on considering how to use them to improve pensions in Europe in an "ageing in dignity" perspective. 

Taking the opportunity, exploiting momentum to improve adequacy and replacement rates is crucial, in this phase preceding the reforms of European Econmic Governance rules. In a framework of refomrs, it is also necessary, for the dignity of ageing, to further develop health and long-term care in Europe, especially in countries that are lagging behind.

The study
Revisiting EU Social Monitoring: A needs-driven Approach from a Workers’ Perspective (EN - FR - DE - IT)

Documents related to the event

Agenda, Concept note, Power Point Presentation

Background documents:

Report explaining the methodology and some conclusions of the ETUC Index of Sustainable Growth and Decent Work (#EUSDG8 Index)


Contribution rates across Europe: fairness and social sustainability of European pensions systems 
ETUC SociAll webinar and expert study by Tiziana Tafaro, President of the National Council of Actuaries and Contract professor at Unisannio; Fabio Porcelli, Head of the Social Security Systems, Fiscal and Taxation department, UIL

The potential of the labour market and of the design of pension systems must be assessed, against their capacity to ensure the accrual of effective and adequate benefits and to contribute to their fiscal sustainability. This is crucial for an ambitious implementation of the Recommendation on access to social protection and reform the national pension systems accordingly.

Pension systems have been progressively reformed, under the pressure of the Country Specific Recommendations, shifting from pay-as-you-go towards defined contribution and fully-funded logics, whereas redistributive systems are considered as not sustainable any longer, because of the ageing of the population in Europe. In the trade union assessment, these trends seem to have shifted the responsibility to ensure the right to adequate pensions of an ageing population from MS and national governments onto the individuals and their capacity to accrue contributions for their future pensions.

Taking into account the current economic, labour market and employment situation, possible reforms that could foster greater fiscal sustainability of adequate pension systems must be investigated. In this context and in the framework of the EU funded project SociAll, the ETUC has planned an expert study providing insights on the social protection contribution systems across Europe, focusing on their capacity to support adequate and effective pensions, as well as their sustainability, in times of demographic change.

The study benefits from the inputs of trade union representatives active in pension policy from all over Europe, gathered during a webinar where the main outcomes of the research have been discussedand integrated. Few important considerations emerged already from such an exchenge:

  • Important indications in term of systems' fairness rise from the analysis of data on the distribution of contribution rates between employee and employers - especially where there are no contributions on the employer or too many on the workers. A system including, for example, additional contributions in case of arduous work would support trade unions arguments of fairness: such solidarity provisions could be used to allow an earlier retirement of older workers without penlising the adequacy of their pensions. 
  • Taxation emerges as crucial to fund solidarity-based schemes in some countries.
  • In Italy, the Constitution already foresees that first and second pillar must be granted, but there is no reference to minimum pension schemes. A recommendation is to introduce mandatory minimum pension schemes in all countries, including them among the constitutional rights.
  • The importance of the labour market dimension for a fairer pension system is striking when looking at the data in a gender perspective.

The final study will be available in different language version soon.

The study

Contribution rates: Fairness and social sustainability of European pensions (EN - FR - DEIT)

Documents related to the webinar

Agenda, Concept note, PPT 


The Impact of Labour Markets Performance on Pension Adequacy and Sustainability

ETUC SociAll webinar and expert study by FORBA

The webinar (held on 14/4/2021) and the relative study that will be issued soon allow to

- focus on those groups that are currently not sufficiently integrated or not at all integrated in the labour market

- assess the potential of a strategy of “upward convergence” and “more and better jobs” - for containing the future increase in economic dependency ratios, against the background of population ageing, as well as for improving pension adequacy and sustainability

- to discuss policy action necessary to increase both quantity and quality of employment, and the reforms necessary to guarantee the sustainability of adequate pensions.

The study
The Impact of Labour Markets on Economic Dependency Ratios and on Pension Adequacy and Sustainability (EN - FR - DE - IT)

Documents related to the webinar

AgendaConcept note, PPT, graph I and Graph IIMethodology and Definitions in Graphs

Background documents:


Making the case for an EU Framework Directive on Minimum Income: the impact of a possible MI Directive in an age-group perspective
ETUC SociAll webinar

Second webinar on the interactions between minimum income and pension policies, in the framework of a strategy aimed at setting adequate minimum standards of social protection in old age for "ageing in dignity", the webinar held on 26/2/2021) saw the expert contribution of Benjamin Benz, Professor of Political Science and for Social Policy, Dr of Social Sciences, Graduate Social Worker, Protestant University of Applied Sciences Rhineland-Westphalia-Lippe.

Evidence from the national surveys and national reports (see the section Main Outcomes of the website) raises the need for trade unions to integrate the topic of of adequacy of minimum income old-age in the debate on adequate pensions.  

Data show that the rate of retirees struggling with insufficient means to lead a life in dignity is higher than people in working age. In many member states, furthermore, old-age households' income is far below the 60% AROP poverty threshold, letting alone a more ambitious pension adequacy benchmark - in spite of social transfers.

Such evidence reinforces the urgency of guaranteeing elderly people the right to a minimum income (EPSR Principle 14). Coordinated provisions to guarantee such right in old age must keep into account both economic and political implications. A EU comprehensive approach to fair minimum standards cannot prescind from guarantees of minimum pensions able to protect the elderly from poverty and social exclusion any longer.

Please find here the documents related to the event:

Agenda, PPT

Background documents:


Making the case for an EU Framework Directive on Minimum Income: building adequate standards of protection of people of all ages across Europe
ETUC SociAll webinar

In the webinar held on 15 December 2020, experts presented the possible options and implications of the adoption of a framework directive on minimum income to people of all ages, including those after retirement age. The ETUC demand in this sense, in fact, seemed to have relevant implications concerning not only the procedural aspects related to the selection of a legal basis for such a directive (and thus the viability of its adoption in the Council). It was discussed also the possible fiscal impact of setting European adequate minimum standards for a life in dignity on pension policy. The ETUC in fact strongly advocated for the establishment of minimum standards of protection of people of all ages across Europe as drivers for upward convergence in the fulfilment of Principles 12 and 15 of the EPSR.

The ETUC acknowledges and highly regrets that the Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed does not call for comprehensive and solidarity-based minimum safety nets protecting against poverty and social exclusion in every national social protection system.

In the framework of the SociAll project, that seeks to elaborate a new concept of “ageing in dignity”, exploring the paths for ensuring a sound protection against poverty and social exclusion across all ages represents a significant step towards a comprehensive and integrated vision of pension policy typical of trade unions’ demands - including a possible European provision on minimum dignified pensions.

Not only the data on poverty and social exclusion in retirement age, emerged during the national research (via the national surveys and reports, see the section Main Outcomes of the website), indeed reveal the importance of minimum standards of protection. Such debate is also relevant to set up a fair and positive hierarchy among minimum standards for income sources, to be kept into due account to give concreteness to the principle of adequacy of pensions and old-age incomes, and eventually fair European benchmarks. Questions concerning these aspects were discussed, that would remain unanswered in a restrictive approach to the Council Recommendation's provisions (see also Thematic discussion paper - Mutual Learning on Access to Social Protection, 3rd workshop, adequate coverage, in particular section 4).

Please find here the documents related to the event:

Agenda, PPT

Background documents:

  • A. Van Lancker, A. Aranguiz, H. Verschueren, Expert study on a binding EU Framework on adequate national minimum income schemes, Making the case for an EU Framework Directive on Minimum Income, EAPN, 2020


The European Background

The background paper represents the starting point of the project. Drafted in Spring 2019, it outlines the pre-Covid existing context and the main challenges of to effective access to adequate social protection and pensions in a European perspective. It brings together several perspectivesdimensions impacting, including the European pension policy context, including the macroeconomic outlook, and the role of social partners. 

The study

European challenges to pension adequacy (EN - FR - DE - ES - IT - PL)

ETUC SociAll Social Protection For All

This project is co-funded

by the European Union