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

 

 

EMIN response to the European Pillar of Social Rights

After a long period of consultations, the European Commission recently published its communication establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights. EMIN fully supports the ambition that the social pillar will launch a new process of social convergence within the Economic and Monetary Union and the EU more generally.

EMIN welcomes 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 Pillar. The Commission benchmarking exercise as a follow up of the Pillar must commit to monitoring developments in relation to adequacy.

EMIN express the hope that the Interinstitutional Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights will contribute to a firm endorsement of all rights enshrined in the pillar by all relevant European Institutions and ensure that cooperation to develop and protect social rights will be central in the work and priorities of the EU.

Dialogue between the social partners and civil dialogue at national and at European level will be essential to mobilise all social actors to effectively deliver the right for all to an adequate and accessible minimum income. The EMIN is committed to contribute to this ambition.

See the full response EMIN-Position-on-EPSR-Final-June-2017

Follow EMIN on http://www.emin-eu.net

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.

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

New ESPN Report on Minimum Income Schemes in Europe

18/03/2016 – The European Social Policy Network (ESPN) has just published a major new report, Minimum Income Schemes in Europe: a Study of National Policies. The report finds that minimum income (MI) schemes play a vital role in alleviating the worst impacts of poverty and social exclusion in many countries. However, in too many countries MI schemes still fall short of ensuring a decent life for the most vulnerable in society. Progress in improving them in recent years has been disappointing. Continue reading

The level of Finnish basic social security improved but what about the future?

The level of basic social security in Finland has improved both in real terms and compared to the wages in 2011–2015, but it is not adequate to cover reasonable minimum costs determined in reference budgets. Reforms in benefit and tax legislation during 2011–2015 have decreased the income inequalities and the poverty risk. This was the conclusion of the second expert group for evaluation of the adequacy of basic social security whose report is now released in English.  While welcoming the minor improvements in 2011-2015, the key question for social NGOs is how is it going to be in 2015-2019.

The report is the result of an internationally exceptional piece of legislation which entered into force in Finland in 2010. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health have to commission every fourth year an evaluation of the development of the adequacy of basic social security from an independent evaluation group. The first evaluation report was released in 2011 and it generated international interest among researchers and experts, which indicated the need to make the report available to English as well. The second evaluation report was released in February 2015 and is now available in English.

Read more:

Adequacy of basic social security in Finland 2011–2015. The second expert group for evaluation of the adequacy of basic social security. Kela Research Department. Working papers 80/2015. 143 pages. Helsinki 2015. ISSN 2323-9239.

https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/156544