A total of €13.6 million were spent on COVID-19 social benefits, pushing the Government’s contributory benefits expenditure to €457.1 million in the first half of this year.
In addition to the COVID-19 social expenses, higher spending was reported on retirement pensions (€21.1 million), widowhood (€3.4 million), the contributory bonus (€3.1 million) and ‘other benefits’ (€1.2 million), according to the National Statistics Office.
The Government spent less on invalidity pensions (€0.5 million) and benefits connected to industrial injuries and gratuities (€0.1 million).
The spend on social security benefits totalled €555.3 million in the first six months of 2020, up 8.5 per cent higher over the corresponding period in 2019.
There was a higher outlay in relation to both contributory and non-contributory benefits, the former accounting for €41.9 million, or 96.7 per cent, of the total rise in social outlay.
In the second quarter of the year, when the ill-effects of the pandemic started to bite, social benefits expenditure was €30.1 million higher than in the same period a year earlier, amounting to €312.4 million. Contributory spending rose by €29.7 million, stemming from the introduction of the COVID-19 benefits together with €11.9 million additional spending towards retirement.
A marginal increase of €0.4 million was reported under non-contributory expenditure.
In the meantime, Eurostat figures, also released by the NSO, show that, in June, when COVID-19 containment measures started being phased out in most member states, the euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 7.8 per cent, up from 7.7 per cent in May. The EU unemployment rate was 7.1 per cent in June, up from 7 per cent in the previous month.
Eurostat estimates that 15.023 million men and women in the EU – including 12.685 million in the euro area - were unemployed in the month under review. This is an increase of 281,000 in the EU and 203,000 in the euro area when compared to May.