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Perspectives

The European Minimum Income Network: Promising Examples of Minimum Income Protection

Text: European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN)1

The European Minimum Income Network (EMIN), coordinated by the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), is committed to achieving the progressive practical enactment of the right to minimum income schemes (MIS) which are adequate, accessible and enabling. EAPN monitors progress on MIS through its Poverty Watch2 reports and the European Semester. We highlight six promising practices – although only the Netherlands and Ireland have MIS which exceed the national income poverty threshold.3

Netherlands: The Netherlands devolved social policy to local authorities with some pioneering experiments in positive activation including lowering the conditions attached to receiving benefits. The active inclusion approach in Zwolle offers integrated support to entering employment as well as tackling issues like childcare, disabilities and debt.4 As minimum income is pegged to minimum wage rates, pay rises have reacted positively to adequate levels of minimum income (MI). This was increased in July 2019 to €1,030 p.m. for a single person and €1,472 p.m. for a family (with or without children). For a lone parent it is set at €1,284 p.m. The level is above the at-risk-of-poverty (AROP) threshold.5

Estonia: In 2017, Estonia introduced a significant increase in basic minimum income ben­efits and in equivalence scales for dependent family members, substantially boosting the income of large families. Minimum income levels are now above absolute poverty but still far below AROP.6

Finland: In 2017, basic social assistance was transferred from local councils to Kela (Social Security Agency) to harmonize delivery, leading to a decrease in non-take-up. However, the new system has proven difficult for people with poor digital skills, such as elderly people and mental health patients in rehabilitation, to navigate. The level of basic social security has fallen as a result of index changes.7 The new government has undertaken measures to raise benefit levels and discard the unemployment activation model.

Portugal: In 2015, the government increased social insertion income (SII) reference values, restoring the 25 per cent cut of 2012 and increasing the percentage paid to extra adults in the household from 50 per cent to 70 per cent and to children from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. Despite increases in 2016 and 2017, the value of SII (€189.66 for an adult) remains well below the risk of poverty threshold.8

Croatia: In Croatia, time limits to the MIS were eliminated and benefits could be combined with paid work. However, the benefit does not cover the cost of a healthy diet and reaches just 38% of the poverty threshold.9

Spain: Due to a fragmented model of minimum income with regional inequalities, Spain is examining the possibility of introducing more cohesion and greater coordination between social and employment services. The Ingreso Mínimo Vital (minimum or subsistence income) was put forward in 2019 by the ruling Socialist Party to replace a variety of regional schemes. It would be a new, non-contributory benefit aimed at households with no earned income and in need for whatever reason (not only unemployment), and combined with unemployment protection to maintain coverage.10

Despite these promising practises, most minimum income schemes in Europe remain inadequate. A binding European framework would help all countries implement Principle 14 (adequate minimum income) of the Pillar of Social Rights.

Footnotes

1.
This is a contribution by EAPN, written by Sian Jones, EAPN Policy Coordinator.
2.
EAPN (2019) National Poverty Reports 2018 – EU synthesis report.
3.
60 % median equivalised disposable household income.
4.
EMIN (2018) Report and Recommendations from the Peer Review on Active Inclusion, Frazer Hugh.
5.
EAPN Netherlands (2019) Poverty Watch.
6.
EMIN2 (2018) Final Report.
7.
EAPN Finland (2019) Poverty Watch.
8.
EAPN Portugal (2019) Poverty Watch.
9.
EMIN2 Final Report Ibid.
10.
EAPN Spain.
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