In 2020, spending on Social Security Benefits totalled €1,076.9 million, 7.9% higher than the previous year. Both Contributory and Non-Contributory benefits reported an increase, the former accounting for €67.4 million, or 85.3%, of the total rise in social expenditure.
Government spending towards Contributory Benefits amounted to €878.3 million, €14.5 million of which covered the COVID-19 social benefits. Total Contributory spending rose by 8.3% from 2019. In addition to the COVID-19 social expenses, higher spending was also reported under Pensions in respect of Retirement (€39.6 million), €23.1 million of which was the result of a higher number of Two-Thirds pensioners. Further increases were registered under Pensions in respect of Widowhood (€6.6 million), Contributory Bonus (€5.5 million) and Other Benefits (€2.7 million).
In contrast, lower expenditure was reported under Pensions in respect of Invalidity (€1.3 million) and Benefits in respect of Industrial Injuries and Gratuities (€0.3 million) (Table 2). Between January and December 2020, Non-Contributory expenditure reached €198.6 million, a 6.2% rise in comparison to 2019.
The largest increases were registered under Disability Pensions/Allowance and Old Age Pension (both €4.4 million). Higher outlay was also reported under Child Allowance (€2.3 million), Total In-Work Benefit (€2.1 million), Supplementary Allowance and Non-Contributory Bonus (both €0.6 million). Conversely, spending towards Total Social Assistance declined by €2.7 million.
During the fourth quarter of 2020, social benefits expenditure was €15.7 million higher than the corresponding quarter in 2019 and totalled €260.7 million. Contributory spending rose by €8.1 million, following €6.8 million additional spending towards Pensions in respect of Retirement (Table 4). A €7.7 million increase was witnessed under Non-Contributory expenditure, mainly due to higher expenditure towards Old Age Pension (€2.7 million) and Disability Pensions/Allowance (€2.5 million).
Social Security Beneficiaries
In 2020, the largest number of Contributory beneficiaries was reported under the Two-Thirds Pension (53,499). In comparison to 2019, the Unemployment Benefit reported the highest increase in beneficiaries (3,172), following the introduction of the COVID-19 Additional Unemployment Benefit, while the largest decrease was recorded under the Sickness Benefit (1,916). Furthermore, there were 8,850 individuals who benefitted from the COVID-19 social benefits.
Children’s Allowance reported the highest share of Non-Contributory recipients, with 45,607 families in receipt of the benefit. The same benefit recorded the largest increase (2,926) in beneficiaries, while the highest drop in recipients was witnessed under Supplementary Allowance (855).
Similar developments were recorded during the last quarter of 2020, with the Two-Thirds Pension (50,656) and Children’s Allowance (41,265) reporting the largest number of Contributory and Non-Contributory beneficiaries, respectively.