international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

EU: European Semester 2023: the Commission’s social recommendations to Member States

Every year by the end of Spring, the EU Commission proposes country specific recommendations to the Member States as part of the European Semester. These recommendations will be later discussed and approved by the Council. Member States will have to try to take measures to respond to the recommendations. Although these recommendations are not binding EU-law, they can have an important impact, especially if a Member State is in a budgetary difficult position (in 2024 the Commission will relaunch its excessive deficit procedure against member states with troublesome budgets).

The recommendations include e.g. strengthening the effectiveness of social security protection, reforming the pension system, tax reforms and increasing labour market participation.

Below we give an overview of the recommendations relating to employment and social security law to the Member States:

  • Austria:
    • Boost labour market participation of women, including by enhancing quality childcare services, and of older workers, and improve labour market outcomes for disadvantaged groups, such as low-skilled jobseekers and people with a migrant background, including by raising their levels of basic skills.
  • Belgium:
    • Pursue the reform of the taxation and benefits system to reduce disincentives to work by shifting the tax burden away from labour and by simplifying the tax and benefits system;
    • Address labour shortages and skills mismatches, in particular by strengthening activation policies to integrate disadvantaged groups into the labour market.
  • Estonia:
    • Strengthen social protection, including to address old-age poverty, and by extending the coverage of unemployment benefits, in particular for those with short work spells and in non-standard forms of work.
  • Finland:
    • Pursue the reform of the social security system to increase the efficiency of the social benefits system, which would improve incentives to work and also support the long-term sustainability of public finances.
    • Address labour and skills shortages by reskilling and upskilling the workforce and widening the higher education offer, in particular for the study fields most in demand in the labour market.
  • France:
    • Improve the working conditions and initial and continuous training for teachers.
  • Germany:
    • Improve the tax mix for more inclusive and sustainable growth, in particular by improving tax incentives in order to increase hours worked. Safeguard the long-term sustainability of the pension system.
  • Hungary:
    • Improve the adequacy of the social assistance system, including unemployment benefits. Improve access to effective active labour market measures, in particular upskilling opportunities for the most disadvantaged groups, and ensure effective social dialogue.
  • Italy:
    • Further reduce taxes on labour.
  • Latvia:
    • Strengthen the adequacy of healthcare and social protection.
  • Lithuania:
    • Strengthen the adequacy of healthcare and social protection.
  • Luxembourg:
    • Address the long-term sustainability of the pension system, in particular by limiting early retirement options and increasing the employment rate for older workers.
  • The Netherlands:
    • Reduce incentives to use flexible or temporary contracts. Taking into account sector specific needs, address structural labour and skills shortages, including by tapping into underutilised labour potential and strengthening up- and reskilling opportunities, in particular for those at the margins of the labour market and the inactive.
  • Poland:
    • Improve the efficiency of public spending, including through better targeting of social benefits. Ensure the adequacy of future pension benefits and the sustainability of the pension system by taking measures to increase the effective retirement age and reforming preferential pension schemes.
  • Portugal:
    • Improve the effectiveness of the tax and social protection systems, in particular by prioritising the simplification of both frameworks, strengthening the efficiency of their respective administrations, and reducing the associated administrative burden.
  • Sweden:
    • Develop the skills of disadvantaged groups, particularly people with migrant backgrounds, by adapting resources and methods to their needs, with a view to helping them integrate into the labour market.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain did not receive specific social recommendations. However, every single one of the 27 Member States is incited to implement their recovery and resilience plan, which often also include social measures.