Priorities for social security – Europe 2022: Trends, challenges and solutions
There are signs that the global economy is recovering from the COVID‑19 crisis. At the time of writing, countries in the region of Europe are taking decisive and important steps towards a return to normality. After nearly two years of lockdown measures and strict health protocols, countries are loosening mandatory requirements concerning mask-wearing and limits on social gatherings, as well as the need for vaccine passports for cultural venues and hospitality and antigen and PCR tests for international travel. Although new infections continue to be reported, there are growing grounds for optimism in those countries that have acquired higher levels of immunity, primarily through vaccination programmes. There is an expectation that COVID-19 will come to be classed as an endemic disease, the control of which may require periodic booster injections. Yet, breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people also highlight the risk of new mutations, which could compromise vaccine efficacy. Amidst all this, government leaders and policy-makers are moving towards normalizing social and economic activities. Recovery in the region's countries, like the rest of the world, depends critically on the restoration and growth of the domestic economy and the resumption of global trade and international activities. Throughout the pandemic, the region’s social security institutions have delivered on the promise of protection. Enabled by digital technologies, institutions have reconfigured their business environments with digital transformation strategies encompassing strategic business processes and service delivery. Many institutions are leaders in the use of advanced technologies, not least to address challenges in contribution compliance, evasion and fraud. The region’s adeptness in using advanced analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence is making social security policy, decision-making and programme implementation more data-driven, transparent, automated, dynamic and resilient. The report covers five topics, namely: • Evolving management practices • Extending and maintaining social security coverage • Meeting the needs of an ageing population • Promoting inclusive growth and social cohesion • Social security responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.