human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Social protection

ensuring the dignity of all


Everyone needs an adequate income to live a dignified life.

We cannot simply rely on paid employment to provide for us.

People may need to stop work to look after children, a partner or an ageing family member.

Governments have a crucial responsibility in ensuring human dignity and the social rights of all by organising solidarity in an inclusive and empowering way.

A solidarity system should protect people against unexpected or unavoidable risks, such as unemployment, family caring responsibilities, poor health and ageing.

We need resilient social models that provide social protection, while helping to eradicate child and family poverty and providing inclusive labour markets.

I have €565 and a small additional benefit monthly, but with the rent and everything, this is tough. I don’t smoke anymore, I don’t drink, I don’t go out. I buy very few new dresses. I am always at home, always. I am ashamed a little as well. I try to handle things, I try to look happy, but it is not easy. And we have our dignity; we don’t want everyone to know that we go to Secours Catholique [Caritas France] to eat. I don’t know how I will live on but we’ll see.

Marie, 54, A beneficiary of Caritas France who has always worked, but who lost her husband eight years ago and then became, and remains, sick.

The problem

Too much political capital is currently invested in trying to provide full employment and solving problems through private care and savings with less and less place for solidarity.

We believe that if people are temporarily or permanently unable to earn a decent income through participation in the labour market, a solidarity system should be in place to ensure an income and access to services.

This will safeguard the right of every person to lead a life in dignity and to fully participate in society.

This is to the benefit of the entire society.

Our solutions

Caritas Europa calls for a resilient and performing social model.

Caritas advocates for strong social models with a well-functioning inclusive labour market able to create decent jobs with decent wages for all, and strong solidarity systems at local, regional, national and European levels based on agreed international standards.

The social protection component should:

  • Mean that nobody in the country is unable to meet their vital needs;
  • Guarantee universal access to social services and user-friendly access to social benefits;
  • Inform residents of their social rights and benefit entitlements;
  • Ensure that residents have access to assistance to enforce their social rights;
  • Invest in early childhood education and care, ensuring free access to at least primary and secondary education, including the use of means-tested school allowances/scholarships, and to prevent/reduce early school-leaving;
  • Provide adequate home care, including supporting care work by family members, in order to prevent or postpone institutionalisation. Care homes for the elderly must meet quality standards and be monitored regularly;
  • Safeguard timely means tested access to quality, appropriate and affordable social housing;
  • Invest in preventative health care and ensure accessible, affordable health care provision;
  • Ensure a means-tested income – unemployment benefits – for people who are temporarily unemployed, in combination with measures to support their re-entry to the labour market, such as via (re-)training, job counselling and language training;
  • Guarantee a means-tested minimum income above the poverty line;
  • Calculate pension rights in the framework of public retirement schemes on the basis of the number of days/years worked, with a minimum and maximum level, and also take into account periods of inactivity for reasons of family care work;
  • Create a fiscal framework to promote complementary public retirement schemes;
  • Ensure sufficient and sustainable funding for social protection by financing social protection systems through taxation on all income sources, not only on labour, and by not coming under pressure as a consequence of financial decline, economic crisis or of demographic ageing;
  • Ratify the European Social Charter and all provisions as well as the Collective Complaints Mechanism.