European Pillar of Social Rights – Proclamation only a beginning.

EMIN welcomes the proclamation by Heads of States and Governments of the european-pillar-social-rights at the Social Summit in Gothenburg last Friday.  This proclamation must mark the beginnings of an EU that sees itself as a Union of vibrant Welfare States, fit for our times.  The EU and Member States must now act through their economic, social and cohesion polices to enable such Member States to grow and flourish.  At the base of such welfare states are the Minimum Income Systems. EMIN welcomes “the right to adequate income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life, and effective access to enabling goods and services”  as one of the twenty rights acknowledged in the pillar. Following from the proclamation, the European institutions must urgently agree a road map, setting out in detail how the EU institutions can support the implementation of the rights in the Pillar, including on minimum income. To contribute to this objective, EMIN launches today, its proposals for such a Road Map for the implementation of the right to adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes (see EMIN2 -Revised-Road-Map-for-MIS-2017- Final)

see French Version of Revised EMIN Road Map:  EMIN La route de l’UE vers le revenu minimum FR PDF Novembre 17

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EESC calls for benchmarks and a common reference framework for income support

The European Economic and Social Committee has recently adopted an opinion on the impact of the reflection paper on the social dimension of the EU and of European Pillar of Social Rights on the future of Europe[1].

The EESC is convinced that delivering on balanced economic growth and social progress should be the guiding principle for the debate on the social dimension of Europe. The Committee wants to see a  clear road map for the implementation of European Pillar of Social Rights with clear assignment of tasks coupled with accountability. Social policy also has to be embedded in a different EU economic policy.

The EESC identified the main areas where it believes action at EU and/or national level is necessary. These include quality jobs, fair working conditions, social protection, social services and minimum income. If the political commitment in the Member States has not led to concrete initiatives implementing the pillar, appropriate measures at EU level, including legal and non-legal initiatives, should be considered. The EESC repeats its demand for a framework directive for a minimum income.

The EESC takes the view that an approach of “deepening the social dimension where possible and focusing more on outcomes” would also support a major driver for more convergence. It therefore supports more binding measures based in the European Semester– with benchmarks, at least for the Eurozone but preferably for the EU-27, related to employment, education, and welfare (for example with a common reference framework for income support for those in need).

[1]SOC/564 – Impact of the social dimension & the European Pillar of Social Rights on the Future of EU, adopted on 19 October 2017

European Parliament gives strong backing for improved Minimum Income Schemes

The Parliament report on ‘minimum income policies as a tool for fighting poverty’ rapporteur Laura Agea, was adopted in Plenary yesterday with 451 votes in favour, 147 against and 42 abstentions.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The call on all Member States (MS) to upgrade their minimum income schemes so that they ensure a life in dignity to households with insufficient income, support their participation in society and ensure their autonomy across the life cycle
  • That MS should set minimum income schemes above the poverty line, taking into account the Eurostat risk-at-poverty threshold, set at 60% of national median income after social transfers, together with other indicators such as reference budgets
  • Recalls the EESC opinion on a framework directive on minimum income in the EU, which should lay down common rules and indicators, provide methods for monitoring its implementation and improve dialogue between the individuals concerned, the Member States and the EU institutions and calls on the Commission and the Member States, in this regard, to evaluate the manner and the means of providing an adequate minimum income in all Member States;

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Latest developments in relation to Minimum Income

The EMIN context report ‘Developments in relation to Minimum Income Schemes in Europe – 2017’ is now available. This report builds on the data from the national EMIN context reports, as well as on recent data sources at EU level. The Individual National Context Reports can be found under ‘EMIN Publications’ (see above).

The context report includes chapters on:

  • EU Policy Framework on Minimum Income
  • Developments in Minimum Income Schemes across Europe
  • Reference budgets, a promising tool in the fight for decent income standards
  • Basic income: a ‘new’ kid in town
  • Minimum Income and Minimum Wages
  • Minimum Income and Active Inclusion
  • The European Semester and Minimum Income
  • The use of EU funding in support of the fight against poverty

The report will lead to a revised road map for the progressive realisation of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes.

You can access the report here

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Basic Income: Solution or Conundrum?

What should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. What is needed to best boost the social dimension of the EU?

A new book co-authored by BIEN co-founder Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick VanderborghtBasic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, published in March 2017 by Harvard University Press makes the case for Basic Income as the appropriate response.

Under the title Basic income in the European Union: a conundrum rather than a solution, Frank Vandenbroucke (University of Amsterdam) has published a critical assessment of the proposals (see article here). He claims that more arguments are needed as to why basic income should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. In his opinion, adequate minimum income protection, unemployment benefits, wage subsidies and access to quality services are more appropriate responses and would better serve the purpose of boosting the social dimension of the European Union.

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Greece’s first national minimum income scheme

The European Social policy Network (ESPN) has issued a Flash Report on Greece’s first national minimum income scheme. The report highlights that “it is only since February 2017 that Greece has a national minimum income scheme: the “Social Solidarity Income”. This scheme is means-tested and combines income support, access to services and support for labour market (re)integration. Yet, although highly welcome, its coverage is confined to households living in extreme poverty, due to the very strict eligibility criteria. Moreover, the amount of the benefit can hardly ensure a dignified standard of living”.

You can access the report at this link New-Minimum-Income-Scheme- Greece-ESPN-Flash-Report-July-2017

Universal Basic Income debate: an impetus to rethink our social protection system?

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have recently published two interesting reports on the idea of a universal basic income and its relations with social protection.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s report has the objective to reflect on the desirability of advocating a basic income approach to social protection when viewed from the perspective of the international human rights law.

Acknowledging that economic insecurity presents a threat to all human rights, the UN report underlines that the rights to work, social security and an adequate standard of living should be given a prominent place in the human rights agenda. From this perspective, the debates over a universal basic income and social protection should be brought together as the two concepts have a greater potential if their synergies are recognised, rather than being ignored.

Likewise, the OECD in its recent policy brief ‘Basic Income as a Policy Option: Can it add up?’ examines the concept of a universal basic income considering the social protection dimension.

The OECD report recognises that for an unconditional payment to everyone to be meaningful and effective would bring about tax rises which may lead to a reduction in existing social protection benefits.  It also points out that a basic income would often not be an adequate and effective tool to overcome poverty as it would lack any form of targeting the people experiencing poverty.

Both reports coming from different perspectives draw similar conclusions with the UN experts report concluding that “the utopian vision may also provide the much-needed impetus to rethink the optimal shape of social protection explicitly designed to achieve universal realization of the human right to an adequate standard of living in the twenty-first century”. While the OECD reports concludes that “In view of the rapid changes in the labour market the ongoing discussions of BI options do, however, provide a valuable impetus for much needed debates about the type of social protection that societies want, and for the search of reform options that are socially and politically feasible”.

Links:

UN Special Rapporteur Report

OECD Policy brief