Recent social protection and social inclusion developments in Austria, Belgium, Iceland, Norway and Spain

Six new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social policy Network (ESPN) are now available and provide information on recent social protection and social inclusion developments in the field of employment (Belgium, Iceland and Spain), access to social security benefits (Norway), access to minimum income (Austria) and housing (Iceland):

  • The rising employment levels in Belgium have not resulted in better income poverty outcomes. This paradox can partly be explained by the following: most new jobs have been absorbed by non-poor households; some of the new jobs are of insufficient quality to lift workers out of poverty; and the unemployed have seen their poverty risk increase.
  • In Iceland, the parliament has recently adopted a “Pay Equality Certification” system (Jafnlaunavottun) which obliges companies with 25 employees or more to obtain a certification of pay equality between men and women. The aim is to root out unexplained gendered pay differences and end gendered discrimination in the labour market.
  • The Spanish parliament is currently discussing a reform of labour market regulations for the self-employed. Indeed, the growing importance of self-employment in the economy has acted as an incentive for political parties to try and establish a more favourable regulatory framework for the self-employed, particularly regarding their fiscal responsibilities and access to social protection.
  • The Norwegian Parliament recently rejected a package of government proposals which intended to give migrants only access to several social security benefits, including old-age pensions and disability benefits, after five years of residency (three years previously) and to remove the existing preferential treatment of refugees in terms of access to and level of benefits.
  • In Austria, the coordination of minimum standards for the minimum income schemes of the federal provinces, agreed in 2010, came to an end in January 2017. Since then (and sometimes even before, thus violating the 2010 agreement), some provinces have introduced reforms which all involve cuts in their minimum income schemes. In June, the capital province of Vienna presented reform plans which envisage much smaller cuts, thereby impeding a race to the bottom regarding the generosity of regional minimum income schemes.
  • The Icelandic government recently announced new measures to better balance supply and demand for family housing, including eased regulation, increased incentives and more support for first time buyers. While supply may increase to previous stability levels, actual demand may not keep up with the already high prices of housing. Lower levels of housing support to families in recent years may hinder a balance being struck at the previous stability levels.

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