European Committee of Social Rights’ Conclusions on Health, Social Security and Social Protection

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) today published its Conclusions 2021 in respect of 33 States* on the articles of the Social Charter relating to Health, Social Security and Social Protection.

In the framework of the reporting procedure, the Committee adopted 401 conclusions: 165 non-conformity and 110 conclusions of conformity with the Charter. In 126 cases, the Committee was unable to assess the situation due to insufficient information (“deferrals”).

In the framework of health and safety for workers in the digital or platform economy, the Committee found that in some countries self-employed and domestic workers were not covered by occupational health and safety regulations.

In many countries, the number of accidents at work (including fatal accidents) and occupational diseases is still high or increasing and the measures taken to improve the situation are not always sufficient. In some cases, the national labour inspectorates are not efficient enough due to staff shortages, low numbers of inspection visits or repeated absence of different types of information.

With regard to the right to health, the data on life expectancy reveals that wide differences exist between men and women, regions, urban and rural areas, levels of education and income.

Furthermore, the Committee found that many States have failed to take adequate steps to address the persistently high levels of infant and maternal mortality, which, when examined together with other basic health indicators, pointed to weaknesses in the health system. Public healthcare expenditure remains too low in certain countries and its right is not guaranteed sufficiently.

With respect to the obligation by States to prevent as far as possible epidemic, endemic and other diseases, the Committee noted the absence of efficient immunisation and epidemiological monitoring programmes, the lack of legislation prohibiting the sale and use of asbestos or the lack of sufficient measures to ensure access to safe drinking water in rural areas.

The Committee once again found little or no progress in many States Parties as regards social security. Inadequate minimum level of income-replacement benefits is still the main ground of non-conformity. The minimum levels of unemployment, sickness and disability benefits in many countries fall below 40% of median equivalised income.

Moreover, in many cases the level of social assistance paid to a single person without resources remains below the poverty threshold. In addition, excessive length of residence requirements often prevents lawfully resident foreigners from accessing social and medical assistance.

Concerning the rights of older persons, the Committee found that in many States Parties older persons lack adequate resources enabling them to lead a decent life and play an active role in the community. Legislation prohibiting discrimination outside employment is still lacking in some cases. 

The Committee noted the devastating effects of Covid-19 on older persons and emphasised the importance of moving away from institutionalisation towards community-based care and independent living for older persons.

The Committee concluded that in many countries the poverty level is far too high, and the measures taken to remedy this fundamental problem have been insufficient and the situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, the Committee noted with satisfaction the adoption in some countries of various measures to strengthen health and safety at work, access to healthcare for the homeless, health and sexuality education at schools and or positive measures regarding the rights of LGBTI persons.

Furthermore, the Committee made public its Findings 2021 in respect of eight States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal) bound by the collective complaints procedure concerning the follow-up given to decisions on the merits of collective complaints in which the Committee found a violation.