Dutch conference shows the importance of a minimum income for target groups

DutchConference10/10/2014- Jo Bothmer opened the EMIN conference on Minimum Income by pointing out that the Netherlands are in a position that there is a minimum income (Law on Social Assistance) since 1965. In principal even earlier since the Old Age Pension Act was introduced in 1956. But as we see in other countries our minimum income schemes are under attack.  Today we are looking from different target groups why this minimum income is that important.

The key-note speaker Esther Langen showed very clear how poverty as well as the number of working poor is increasing and that the next changes in social security starting at the 1st of January 2015 will be the next step in decreasing social assistance.

Anne van Lancker pointed out the roadmap of EMIN and made the participants aware of the fact that many EU-member states do not have a minimum wage as it is known in the Netherlands that is considered as one of the better minimum income schemes. But even the Dutch minimum income is far from adequate and therefore we have a long way to go to reach our common goal.

Firouzeh Hamidian Rad was very clear about the effect of an income that does not meet the needs for women, migrant women and especially for children. It is bad for their health, takes away changes and is partly destroying their future.

Jolanda Verburg presented an alternative. The Basic Income Sceme (this is no minimum income as we know it). The Basic Income union feels that via a Basic Income for all people, they will be in a position of choices. It may change the world of work.

Quinta Ansem focused on woman confronted with violence in a relationship. Our minimum income gives them a chance to free themselves –and their children- out of this kind of relationship. The problem though is that the chance of getting stuck in a life of poverty is substantial, since no one is offering a real way out. As the women Firouzeh was taking about, this group also has no much chance to get of poverty.

Our colleague from Belgium, Paul Rosiers, informed us about the situation in his country and introduced the reference basket. It all sounded as if he was talking about our country. The same attacks on the minimum income and the same growth of working poor and poverty. The reference basket is used by the National Budgetting Organization (NIBUD) as well. One of their figures is that a full family ( 2 + 2) needs at least 1602€ net a month to not get in to poverty.

After the break we had an interesting discussion within the panel and the panel with the participants. Some major outcomes were:

  1. There was a clear understanding that we need to work more closely together.
  2. Sonja Leemkuil showed us the severe position were the handicapped who have a sheltered job now, will be put in at the moment the (new) Participation Law will be in effect (1-1-2015).
  3. Maschinka Groot pointed out that the persons with a mental handicap will be back on the streets (homeless) due to the new austerity measurements.
  4. Joke de Ruiter gave a negative view concerning the future of elderly women, especially those who are single. The chance getting into poverty and exclusion is significant.
  5. Marije Cornelissen, former MEP for the Green Left, talked about the strength of a coalition within the EP and the chances to make a difference. She sees EAPN as a partner and offered to be involved seeking to built new coalitions.

The conference was a bit handicapped seen the fact that the trains were delayed. The participations came in bit by bit and most of them late.  This however had no effect on the fact that all were in a positive mood and went home with the clear intention to seek partners and find ways to discuss with the (local) politicians about the need for a positive change.

The Netherlands may be seen as an example how a social security system is built and a minimum wage is guaranteed. But we have to accept that our standards are decreasing step by step.

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