Cypriot Conference on Guaranteed Minimum Income Policies

Half Day Conference on “Guaranteed Minimum Income Policies in Cyprus and Greece and the European Intervention” took place on Thursday, May 11th, at the “Marcos Drakos” Hall, at SEK Building in Nicosia . The conference marked the launch of the European Minimum Income Network (EMIN2) program and was organized by EAPN-Cyprus.

The conference was welcomed online by Fintan Farrell the Project Manager, Ninetta Kazantzis the President of EAPN-Cyprus, SEK (Cyprus Workers’ Confederation) General Secretary Andreas Matsas and the General Manager of the Ministry of Labor and Social Insurance, Andreas Assotis, on behalf of the Minister Mrs Zeta Emilianidou.

The basic presentation of the EMIN2 program was made by EMIN national coordinator Nicos Satsias, who analyzed the program. EMIN2, said Mr Satsias, is an informal network of organisations and individuals, committed to achieve the progressive realisation of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes.  EMIN unites various experts, professionals, academics and diverse entities active in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.

The second module of the conference consisted of a contribution by the advisor of the Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Insurance, Mr Fanos Kourouphexis, who analyzed the philosophy and policies of the Guaranteed Minimum Income in Cyprus and of course all the related evolutions since the day of the implementation of the new system, July 2014.

Two very interesting contributions were then submitted, by Dr Gabriel Amitsis, Professor of TEI of Athens, entitled  “The Development of Minimum Income Policies in the Greek Social Welfare System” and by Mrs Fotini Marini, SYGKLISIS, on “The Model of National Strategies for Social Integration – Lessons from Greece and Cyprus “.

The seminar was concluded with discussion, interventions by participants and questions. As a general conclusion it was accepted that there is always space for improvement, in all the areas (access, adequacy and enabling) of Guaranteed Minimum Income.

Joint Employment Report 2017

The Joint Employment report adopted in March 2017, shows a snapshot of income inequality and poverty developments and of the policy efforts Member States have made to reduce them. The report shows that the highest income inequalities are observed in Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Spain, Latvia and Greece. Romania and Lithuania are also the countries that experienced the highest increase in inequalities.

The highest poverty rates for the working age population are found in Romania, Spain and Greece. The latter country together with Estonia and Bulgaria saw its poverty rates reduced.

According to the report, several countries made efforts to improve coverage and adequacy of social benefits, combined with activation policies.

For more information see Commision-Information-Note-Joint-Employment-Report-2017

New European Parliament Study on Minimum Incomes.

Information from Eurodiaconia

The European Parliament recently commissioned a study on ‘minimum income policies in EU Member States as a foundation for an upcoming report, which will explore the role of minimum income schemes in tackling poverty. Analyzing the key developments since 2010, the study discusses the socio-economic context around poverty and social exclusion as well as the ongoing debate around Minimum Income at EU level. The study furthermore presents the current situation of Minimum Income Schemes in EU Member States, exploring key issues such as benefit adequacy, coverage and take-up. The report finishes with a number of policy recommendations.

To know more about the ongoing debate around Minimum Income, please check the study.

Minimum Income and the European Pillar of Social Rights

After a long period of consultations, last week the European Commission has published its communication establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights.

We fully support the ambition of the Commission to ensure that the social pillar will be part of the efforts to launch a new process of social convergence within the Economic and Monetary Union ad the EU more generally. The Inter-institutional Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights should contribute to a firm endorsement of all rights enshrined in the pillar by all relevant European Institutions.

We welcome the recognition of the right to adequate minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life, and to effective access to enabling goods and services, as part of the European Pillar of Social Rights. However we are concerned with the narrow definition of incentives to reintegrate into the labour market, pointing only at the design of the benefit to preserve financial incentives to take up a job. The Recommendation on active inclusion rightly refers to the need for inclusive labour markets and access to quality services to provide minimum income beneficiaries a fair chance to take up a decent job.

EMIN will shortly produce a more developed position on the Social Pillar and its potential for promoting adequate Minimum Income Schemes.

See the Commisison Staff Working Document (Minimum Income Pages 55-57)

Reference Budgets help to show what life is like for people on the poverty line

In a new paper, our EMIN partners from the Antwerp University, together with their colleagues from the European Reference Budgets Network, demonstrate how reference budgets can be used to show what it means to live on benefits at the level of the poverty threshold (60% of the equivalised median income in a country). Using cross-country comparable reference budgets, they show that a decent standard of living is more in reach for people living on 60% of median income in richer member states, but that even adequate food and housing are barely affordable for people in the poorest countries, living on an income at the level of the threshold. The reference budgets also show that the poverty risk of certain groups such as children is underestimated, compared to other age groups. They also indicate that the poverty risk of homeowners is probably overestimated.

The research shows that reference budgets provide policy makers and NGOs with a strong foothold for assessing the adequacy of minimum income support and are useful compliments for the existing indicators of poverty and social exclusion.

Access the paper Ref-budgets-to-contextualise-the-at-risk-of-poverty-indicator-April-2017

A European Minimum Income Scheme for mobile workers?

At the launch of OSE-ETUI publication on ‘Social policy in the European Union: state of play 2016’ on 27th February, Professor Martin Seeleib-Kaiser of Oxford University presented his proposal for the creation of a European minimum income scheme for people who use their right to free movement in the EU to look for work.

Starting point is his diagnosis that the EU regulation on coordination of social protection schemes in many cases doesn’t work for people who can only export very limited rights to a very low unemployment benefit. For example: a Romanian person looking for a job in Germany only has right to a Romanian unemployment benefit of 27€ per month, a sum impossible to make a living in Germany. In most countries, the right to an unemployment benefit is also strictly limited in time. These restrictions make people very vulnerable to exploitation.

Seeleib-Kaiser therefore proposes to create a European minimum income scheme that would provide temporary benefits at a very modest level for those persons who use the freedom of movement to look for a job in another country. The benefit would be at the level of 25% of the median income in the country of destination and would be granted for a period of maximum 3 months during a year. Total cost of EU funding for such a scheme is calculated at 1 billion €; the scheme would cover 1.1 million people.

During the discussion, Anne Van Lancker, EMIN policy coordinator, argued that it would be better to guarantee access to decent minimum income schemes to people who are looking for a job in another country and who lack the necessary resources to make a living. The establishment of decent and accessible minimum income schemes for all in every Member States should be financially supported at EU level. This would also put an end to policies in Member States to refuse them access, invoking a so-called excessive burden on their social protection scheme. But the idea that researchers are supportive of an EU initiative on minimum income was warmly welcomed.

In his reply to the discussion, Seeleib-Kaiser stated that he and his team totally supported the idea of having decent minimum income schemes accessible for all who need it. His proposal on a European minimum income scheme for mobile workers however, would be a more modest achievement, that would put an end to injustice and inequality regarding the freedom of movement in the EU, he said.

Please find his presentation here.