Digitalisation in social security

Background

The free movement of people within the European Union should also mean the preservation of their social security rights when they move to another EU country, especially for work. Article 48 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) enables the EU to coordinate social security systems in such cross-border situations. This means that workers and self-employed people who move within the EU should enjoy the same rights and obligations in their new country as its own nationals. However, there are challenges in the way different administrations cooperate, making it hard for social security information to flow smoothly across borders.

To counter these challenges and support intra-EU labour mobility, the Commission proposed a Communication for the digitalisation of social security systems. This Communication takes stock of the currently available tools and initiatives and sets out mid-term and long-term visions for the digitalisation strategy in EU social security coordination.

In the opinion, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) highlights the limitations of current administrative practices, pointing to issues such as bureaucratic complexity, manual procedures and reliance on physical documents. These challenges prevent the swift resolution of administrative activities, which goes against the needs of EU citizens and businesses and can have an impact on their social security rights and obligations across borders.

In response to these challenges, the EESC advocates the digitalisation of social security and healthcare coordination mechanisms. However, it raises a critical concern about digital exclusion as the number of Europeans who lack basic digital skills remains very high across all age groups, with the highest figures reported in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. The EESC urges alternative solutions to be provided for those who are unable to use electronic means or who are otherwise digitally excluded. In this respect, digital identification should be an option, not a requirement, until suitable alternatives are established that respect the relevant data protection standards. In addition, the EESC favours ongoing exchanges of best practices and collaborative efforts among Member States and EU institutions to further digitalise social security coordination.

Key points

In the opinion, the EESC:

• welcomes and fully supports the Commission’s goal of simplifying cross-border social security and healthcare coordination through digitalisation;

•  calls for the immediate development of a comprehensive action plan to digitalise social security coordination with a bottom-up approach, while highlighting the importance of considering the needs of social security institutions and stakeholders, including individuals, employers, companies and social economy entities;

•  believes that we will not be able to achieve our goal of removing obstacles to free movement solely by digitalising social security until the reform of Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems is finalised.

The full opinion can be found here.

Additional information

Section: Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC)

Opinion number: SOC/781

Opinion type: Optional

Rapporteur: Krzysztof Balon

Co-rapporteur: María del Carmen Barrera Chamorro

Referral COM(2023) 501 final

Date of adoption by section: 21.11.2023

Result of the vote: 87 in favour/1 against

Date of adoption in plenary: 13.12.2023

Result of the vote: 196 in favour/2 abstentions/3 against

 

Contacts:

Press officer: Laura Lui

Tel.:     00 32 2 546 9189

Email:  laurairena.lui@eesc.europa.eu

 

Press officer assistant: Alexandra Brihaye

Email: alexandra.brihaye@eesc.europa.eu

 

Administrator: Bartek Bednarowicz

Tel.: 00 32 2 546 9229

Email: Bartek.Bednarowicz@eesc.europa.eu

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