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11 September 2023: Social Europe

To understand what is wrong with social protection in Europe, picture watering a garden with a watering-can full of holes. No matter how full the watering-can, huge amounts of water intended for the plants will be wasted, leaving the flowers to wilt.

There are similarly wasteful ‘leakages’ in Europe’s generous social-protection schemes, with an astounding number of people missing out on the benefits intended for them. One study put the proportion not gaining access to the benefits to which they are entitled at above 40 per cent for most European Union social-protection schemes considered.

As I outlined in a report on ‘non-take-up’ to the United Nations Human Rights Council, there are many reasons for failure to claim benefits. One of the most common, particularly in Europe, is simply lack of knowledge of the benefit or of eligibility for it. Others include complicated or costly application processes, inability to apply online or fear of perceived stigma.

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