Social Security in Times of COVID-19

Event: Society and Politics

On November 27th and 28th, 2021, FES Shanghai Representative Office in cooperation with the Centre of European Studies at the Fudan University Shanghai and the Chinese Association of Social Security held a conference about social security in times of the pandemic.

The global spread of the coronavirus has posed a tremendous turning point for societies. Countless people saw their lives changing radically, forced by economic shut downs or health issues. In many countries, the social security systems, especially the health systems, were only partially able to provide the necessary support services.

During the conference, experts from China and Germany pointed out that both countries were able to mitigate the effects of the pandemic with massive and quick interventions, such as the extension of short-time work benefits, deferral of social security contributions etc. Nevertheless, the relief measures have not helped all groups in society equally. Particularly low-skilled employees, young workers, women and the self-employed have been suffering more than other cohorts on the labor market.

In addition to the impact of unforeseeable crises, the conference also addressed phenomena with a long-lasting impact on social security systems such as the gig economy and the demographic change. A solution-oriented approach discussed how the income of the contribution-financed social security systems can be increased and stabilized and what effects are to be expected when complementing them with high-quality and quantitative public services. Other more far-reaching courses of action ranged to unconditional access to basic income and services.

Regarding social insurance, there were two pillars that attracted the core of the debate. Both pension and health insurance will face long-term pressure due to inevitable social and economic factors. Additional unexpected shocks like a pandemic can lead to further instability. Therefore, experts were in agreement that reforming and supporting these pillars is a key task for policy makers.

The two-day event made clear how important social security is for people, but also for economic development. However, it also became distinct that due to crises and social changes, an exchange on stabilization and further development of these systems must be conducted even more than before.

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