EESC calls for benchmarks and a common reference framework for income support

The European Economic and Social Committee has recently adopted an opinion on the impact of the reflection paper on the social dimension of the EU and of European Pillar of Social Rights on the future of Europe[1].

The EESC is convinced that delivering on balanced economic growth and social progress should be the guiding principle for the debate on the social dimension of Europe. The Committee wants to see a  clear road map for the implementation of European Pillar of Social Rights with clear assignment of tasks coupled with accountability. Social policy also has to be embedded in a different EU economic policy.

The EESC identified the main areas where it believes action at EU and/or national level is necessary. These include quality jobs, fair working conditions, social protection, social services and minimum income. If the political commitment in the Member States has not led to concrete initiatives implementing the pillar, appropriate measures at EU level, including legal and non-legal initiatives, should be considered. The EESC repeats its demand for a framework directive for a minimum income.

The EESC takes the view that an approach of “deepening the social dimension where possible and focusing more on outcomes” would also support a major driver for more convergence. It therefore supports more binding measures based in the European Semester– with benchmarks, at least for the Eurozone but preferably for the EU-27, related to employment, education, and welfare (for example with a common reference framework for income support for those in need).

[1]SOC/564 – Impact of the social dimension & the European Pillar of Social Rights on the Future of EU, adopted on 19 October 2017

European Parliament gives strong backing for improved Minimum Income Schemes

The Parliament report on ‘minimum income policies as a tool for fighting poverty’ rapporteur Laura Agea, was adopted in Plenary yesterday with 451 votes in favour, 147 against and 42 abstentions.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The call on all Member States (MS) to upgrade their minimum income schemes so that they ensure a life in dignity to households with insufficient income, support their participation in society and ensure their autonomy across the life cycle
  • That MS should set minimum income schemes above the poverty line, taking into account the Eurostat risk-at-poverty threshold, set at 60% of national median income after social transfers, together with other indicators such as reference budgets
  • Recalls the EESC opinion on a framework directive on minimum income in the EU, which should lay down common rules and indicators, provide methods for monitoring its implementation and improve dialogue between the individuals concerned, the Member States and the EU institutions and calls on the Commission and the Member States, in this regard, to evaluate the manner and the means of providing an adequate minimum income in all Member States;

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Latest developments in relation to Minimum Income

The EMIN context report ‘Developments in relation to Minimum Income Schemes in Europe – 2017’ is now available. This report builds on the data from the national EMIN context reports, as well as on recent data sources at EU level. The Individual National Context Reports can be found under ‘EMIN Publications’ (see above).

The context report includes chapters on:

  • EU Policy Framework on Minimum Income
  • Developments in Minimum Income Schemes across Europe
  • Reference budgets, a promising tool in the fight for decent income standards
  • Basic income: a ‘new’ kid in town
  • Minimum Income and Minimum Wages
  • Minimum Income and Active Inclusion
  • The European Semester and Minimum Income
  • The use of EU funding in support of the fight against poverty

The report will lead to a revised road map for the progressive realisation of adequate, accessible and enabling Minimum Income Schemes.

You can access the report here

French Version of the report EMIN-Préparer-le-terrain-2017

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Basic Income: Solution or Conundrum?

What should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. What is needed to best boost the social dimension of the EU?

A new book co-authored by BIEN co-founder Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick VanderborghtBasic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, published in March 2017 by Harvard University Press makes the case for Basic Income as the appropriate response.

Under the title Basic income in the European Union: a conundrum rather than a solution, Frank Vandenbroucke (University of Amsterdam) has published a critical assessment of the proposals (see article here). He claims that more arguments are needed as to why basic income should be the priority amidst competing claims on the ‘gift’ constituted by past technological, economic and social progress. In his opinion, adequate minimum income protection, unemployment benefits, wage subsidies and access to quality services are more appropriate responses and would better serve the purpose of boosting the social dimension of the European Union.

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Greece’s first national minimum income scheme

The European Social policy Network (ESPN) has issued a Flash Report on Greece’s first national minimum income scheme. The report highlights that “it is only since February 2017 that Greece has a national minimum income scheme: the “Social Solidarity Income”. This scheme is means-tested and combines income support, access to services and support for labour market (re)integration. Yet, although highly welcome, its coverage is confined to households living in extreme poverty, due to the very strict eligibility criteria. Moreover, the amount of the benefit can hardly ensure a dignified standard of living”.

You can access the report at this link New-Minimum-Income-Scheme- Greece-ESPN-Flash-Report-July-2017

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

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.