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)

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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

European Parliament Draft Report on Minimum Income Schemes

The European Parliament is drafting a new report on Minimum Income Schemes as a tool to fight poverty. The rapporteur for the report is Italian MEP Laura Agea. See the draft report EP Draft Report, Minimum Income policies as a tool for fighting poverty Feb 2017 Fintan Farrell Project Manager EMIN, spoke in the Parliament hearing on the Draft Report. See his presentation Presentation EP 28 Feb 2017 Amendments to the report were due for 14 March. EMIN project partners EAPN and ETUC will follow the development of the report carefully.

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.

See how your MEPs have voted!

To see how your MEPs voted on the Minimum Income amendment in their report on A European Pillar of Social Rights (Rapporteur -Maria João Rodrigues MEP) see votes-mi-amendment-social-pillar-report: pages 46 and 47.  Please note there are still some days for corrections if voting is not recorded correctly. You may get the chance to speak with your MEPs to understand better why they voted they way they did and to continue to build the conversation with them about the importance of adequate and accessible Minimum Income Schemes.

European Parliament support for actions to ensure adequate minimum income schemes

The European Parliament accepted the following amendment in their report on A European Pillar of Social Rights (Rapporteur -Maria João Rodrigues MEP):  “Highlights the importance of adequate minimum income schemes for maintaining human dignity and combating poverty and social exclusion, as well as their role as a form of social investment enabling people to participate in society, and to undertake training and/or look for work; invites the Commission and the Member States to assess minimum income schemes in the European Union, including whether the schemes enable households to meet their needs; invites the Commission and the Member States to evaluate on this basis the manner and the means of providing an adequate minimum income in all Member States and to consider further steps in support of social convergence across the European Union, taking into account the economic and social circumstances of each Member State, as well as national practices and traditions;

The amendment was proposed by the Green, Social and Democrats and GUE groups and passed with the support of some members of the ALDE and EPP group.  This is a good basis of support for the work of the EMIN 2 project (2017-2018). A big thanks to EAPN mmebers and other civil society actors who engaged their MEPs to ensure support for this amendment.