Even though all EU countries now have elements of state minimum income protection, these are often insufficient to prevent poverty. Therefore, the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) demands that the EU Member States be legally obliged by an EU regulation to design basic social protection systems in such a way that they guarantee a decent life for all citizens. An opinion commissioned by the DGB shows that such a regulation could already be introduced at EU level. It depends only on political will.
At this head-to-head debate, organised by the European Policy Centre, speakers discussed these two ways of guaranteeing social protection and addressing the growing social challenges of today. Yannick Vanderborght, Professor of Political Science at Université Saint Louis and member of the BIEN board, defended the reasons why basic income is a good solution to avoid arbitrary distinctions between deserving and non-deserving poor, avoid stigma and shame that cause non-take-up, whilst at the same time avoiding poverty traps. Anne Van Lancker, EMIN policy coordinator, explained what adequate, accessible and enabling minimum income schemes could bring, not just to the people who need them, but to the whole of society. She made it clear that EMIN seeks to progressively change existing poor, conditioned and punitive systems into universally accessible income support as an essential element of social protection floors, that must ensure access to basic income security for all over the life cycle. She stressed that, when allocating public resources, priority should be given to systems that respect ‘progressive universalism’, ensuring universal rights whilst at the same time granting more help to people who really need it. It is clear that basic income scenarios require a lot more funding than lifting minimum income systems above the poverty threshold.
The debate showed clearly that, despite the difference between both proposals, there are also many common approaches to the issue of income security. Conclusions seem to be that on eliminating conditionality and ensuring individual rights, both proposals show more common ground than expected. Therefore, Anne expressed the wish to cooperate more closely between the two networks, to engage in discussions on new ways of looking at poverty eradication, quality of work and social protection and redistribution of income.
Atlas-of-Work-DGB-Germany jointly published by Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB, German Federation of Trade Unions) and Hans Böckler Foundation (HBS).
This Atlas of Work presents facts and figures about jobs, employment and livelihoods. It explains many aspects of how our working world is structured today, how it is in constant motion, and what opportunities we, especially policy makers, unions and civil society, have to change it. It contains a chapter on Basic Income. The Atlas offers a solid basis for discussion on work and social protection in the future.
EMIN successfully organized its first peer review on coverage and take-up of benefits on 13 and 14March in Helsinki Finland. EMIN teams from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Spain and UK participated and presented reports on the state-of-play in their countries. A general introduction to the subject was delivered by Anna Ludwinek from EUROFOUND, who published research on the problem. Special attention was also given to the basic income experiment that is running in Finland, since this could inspire policy makers on the advantages of less conditionality for benefit receipt. We were also inspired by the policy of Scotland where the government puts a lot of emphasis on the social right of people to receive the benefits they need. The presentations of all speakers and of national EMIN teams were published in our message of 27 March.
Contrary to reports in the international press, the basic income experiment in Finland will continue until the end of 2018 as planned. During the experiment that was launched in January 2017, 2000 unemployed persons between 25 and 58 years who are chosen at random, receive 560€ monthly. If their previous income was higher, the basic income is topped up. They can keep the basic income also when they find a new job. The aim of the experiment is to see if basic income can increase employment and simplify the social security system. At the EMIN peer review on coverage and take-up, Olli Kangas from KELA, the social security administration in Finland, presented the experiment, in which EMIN took as particular interest because it significantly reduces conditionality attached to benefits.
However, the same conservative government that introduced the experiment in Finland doesn’t seem to support the experiment anymore. It will not expand the experiment in following years to cover more people and target groups, as requested by KELA research group and some NGO´s. On the contrary, the government has introduced more conditionality to unemployment benefits, so called “Active model”, which cuts around 5% of the unemployment benefits, if one fails to satisfy employment officials that they have either worked for 18 hours, participated in training or pursued entrepreneurship in a 65-day period. https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/punishing_people_for_lack_of_results_one_mans_fight_against_new_unemployment_benefit_rules/10003995
Two of the three parties in the government has also started to talk about new schemes, such as the universal credit, comparable to the UK scheme that is already proving to impose excessive conditions on people receiving the benefit, and thus creating a considerable risk for high non-take-up, pushing more people into poverty.
All this without even waiting for the evaluation of the basic income experiment that will be done after the end of this year. This proves again that often more conditionality in benefits schemes is imposed, without clear scientific evidence and for purely ideological reasons.
On 24 April, we will launch our Bus Awareness Raising journey : 2 Buses, 32 Countries, 64 days, over 120 programmes and over a thousand volunteers are arranged to build awareness of the importance for the whole society of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes. Follow our adventures on the blog www.eminbus.eu
Ruth George, UK, MP and chair of the Universal Credit All-Party group in Parliament: ‘We’re looking to make sure that we can improve welfare standards and tackle poverty here in the UK. That research will be absolutely vital in making sure that we can target our policy work as best we can to stamp out poverty and bring a really decent minimum standard of living to everyone!’
EMIN Netherlands had a workshop this February with the aim to discuss the future of minimum income schemes when you are a starting entrepreneur, who has to pay back a student loan of over 40.000€. Solutions, given by the young entrepreneurs/ students social work at the University of AS NHL Stenden in Leeuwarden.
EMIN Netherlands had a workshop in December with the aim to bring together young people to discuss the future of minimum income schemes. Solutions, given by the young people from different backgrounds: former homeless, former drop outs, people with chronical illness, students of social work, included:
Steering towards a more inclusive society in terms of care. From self-reliance to cohabitation!
Ask more and more questions, such as:
How can we help each other?
What does the social network look like?
How can social education (at school) play a role. Can discussion be included as:
What is sufficient social assistance?
What does a good health insurance look like?
How do you feel about Food Banks?
Where do you get help to understand contracts for energy, smart phone, et cetera? In Amsterdam they started with financial cafes. Here you can get information and possibly help with questions concerning the health insurance, the housing corporation, utilities.
The minimum income increase at least 100 to 200 € per month up.
We have to demonstrate for more money. More people have to revolt.
The government must look at the persons strength instead of its weakness.
The minimum income (assistance etc.) must have the same growth as the economy. The gap between rich and poor is increasing. Costs, such as rent, energy and expenses, increase more than the minimum income.
A minimum amount must be set to be able to live off, without having to be dependent on the food bank. For example, 30 € per day. That is about the minimum amount that a tourist spends per day in our country.
For this workshop we built a coalition of several –national and local- organizations for homeless youngsters and lectors of three Academies for Social work and EAPN Netherlands.
The following questions were key for the discussions:
What is needed to ensure basic security for everyone, regardless of their position in society?
What does that basic security look like?
What role does a minimum income play in this? How high should a minimum income actually be in 2027 and beyond?
It was not as easy as it looks to bring these groups together from completely different worlds and with entirely different perspectives for their future, to talk to each other in order to create opinions, ideas, alternatives and proposals about the role that a minimum income in their lives will, can or must play, but it is absolutely valuable to open doors towards different groups and starting a common dialogue.
It was not simple to ask people to think about 2027, but valuable at a time when only today and tomorrow are looked at. At the end, the results were presented to the plenary, with the rule that no questions, comments or discussion are allowed, because every proposal is valuable.
At the moment we are working towards a second workshop. If all goes well this will include students and young, starting entrepreneurs.