Several problems related to health and social protection still persist in Europe

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) published today its 2021 conclusions in respect of 33 States* on the articles of the Charter relating to the thematic group “Health, social security and social protection”. Germany and Iceland submitted their reports too late and the Committee therefore adopted no conclusions with regard to these two countries.

Under the reporting procedure, the Committee adopted 401 conclusions, including 165 conclusions of 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 (“reports”).

In its targeted questions to States parties, the Committee has included several questions relating to health and safety regulations in new and evolving situations such as the digital and platform economy, social protection coverage of platform workers or the regulation of excessive working hours and the right to Disconnect.

With regard to the health and safety of workers in the digital economy or platforms, the Committee found that in some countries self-employed workers and domestic workers were not covered by health and safety regulations. workplace safety.

In many countries, the number of occupational accidents (including fatalities) and occupational diseases is still high or increasing and, according to the Committee, the measures taken to improve the situation are not always sufficient. In some cases, national labor inspectorates are not effective enough due to lack of staff, low number of inspection visits or repetitive lack of different types of information.

With regard to the right to health, information on life expectancy provided by States and other sources reveals large differences between men and women, regions, urban and rural areas, income and the level of education.

In addition, the Committee found that many States had failed to take adequate measures to address persistently high levels of infant and maternal mortality, which, when considered together with other basic health indicators, revealed the weaknesses of the health system. Public health spending remains too low in some countries and the right of access to care is not sufficiently guaranteed. The level of awareness and education regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and gender-based violence is not sufficient in several countries.

With regard to the obligation of States to prevent as far as possible epidemic, endemic and other diseases, the Committee noted the absence of effective programs of vaccination and epidemiological surveillance, the absence of legislation prohibiting the sale and the use of asbestos or the lack of sufficient measures to ensure access to drinking water in rural areas.

The Committee again found little or no progress in many States parties in the area of ​​social security. The insufficiency of the minimum level of income replacement benefits remains the main reason for non-compliance. Minimum levels of unemployment, sickness and disability benefits in many countries are below 40% of equivalent median income. The Committee noted that in some States parties, levels have increased at a rate above the median income. However, they remain low or are sometimes between 40 and 50% of the median income.

Regrading the social security coverage of persons employed or whose work is managed through digital platforms, many States parties were unable to provide information and the Committee had to defer its conclusion.

In many States parties to the Charter, the level of social assistance paid to a single person without resources remains below the poverty line. In addition, excessive length of stay requirements often prevent legally resident foreigners from accessing social and medical assistance.

With regard to the rights of older persons, the Committee has found that in many States parties older persons lack adequate resources to enable them to lead a decent life and play an active role in the community. Legislation prohibiting discrimination outside of employment is still lacking in some states.

The Committee noted the devastating effects of Covid-19 on older people and stressed the importance of moving from institutionalization to community care and independent living for older people.

Finally, the Committee concluded that in many countries the level of poverty is far too high, and the measures taken to address 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 aimed at strengthening health and safety at work, access to care for the homeless, health and sexuality education in schools or positive measures concerning the rights of LGBTI people.

In addition, the Committee has published its 2021 Findings with regard to 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 class actions. complaints for which the Committee has found a violation.

* Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Macedonia North, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation[1]Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and United Kingdom

[1] These conclusions were adopted when the Russian Federation was a Contracting Party to the European Social Charter. The information presented here reflects this fact. However, subsequently, by decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of March 16, 2022, on that day the Russian Federation ceased to be a member of the Council of Europe.

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Joel C. Hicks