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Public opinion and EU action on social protection: exploring the expectations gap

Written by Clare Ferguson,

Following the financial crisis, fears for the levels of social protection for EU citizens in the areas of health and social security, employment, and equality were at the forefront of much of the debate leading up to the recent United Kingdom EU referendum. Published in the wake of the British vote to leave the EU, a Eurobarometer survey gauges citizens’ perceptions of EU action in these sensitive areas. Europeans appear to be in favour of the EU giving increased priority to intervention in these areas. EPRS defines where the gaps between expectations and action exist, and highlights possible existing opportunities for the EU to increase its performance.

Health and social security

Public expectations and EU commitment on health and social security

Almost two thirds of EU citizens would like to see more EU engagement in the areas of health and social security. EU health policy aims to support Member States to foster good health, protect citizens from health threats and support dynamic health systems. Social policy promotes social cohesion and solidarity through social protection and inclusion policies. The EU also encourages national pension reforms to ensure they are both adequate and sustainable. Tied to labour market measures, EU spending on social security has the second highest citizen support for policy spending. However, there is room for improvement in both health and social security policy…

The fight against unemployment

Public expectations and EU commitment on the fight against unemployment

While combating unemployment has long been a European Union goal (as an important part of the Europe 2020 Strategy), citizens continue to demand more EU intervention and are keen to see results from the initiatives already begun. Action to date has included boosting employment through reduced taxes on labour, greater labour mobility, and better working conditions. The EU already supports start-ups and invests in education, vocational training and lifelong learning. Recent initiatives, aiming for a target of 75% of 20-64 year olds in employment by 2020, seek to make better use of available skills and enable rapid recognition of qualifications.

Equal treatment of men and women

Public expectations and EU commitment on equal treatment of men and women

Most Europeans appear to be aware of EU actions promoting the equal treatment of women and men, and agree that this area should be an EU priority. However, there is potential for the EU to provide greater support for actions to ensure equal pay, facilitate work-life balance and to combat violence against women. While a number of initiatives are already on the table, stakeholders have also expressed concerns about diminishing commitment to gender equality policy at EU level.

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See other policy areas covered with this Eurobarometer.

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