Minimum Income Schemes (MIS) are an essential, integral part of universal social protection schemes and a comprehensive, rights-based, person-centred active inclusion approach that ensures adequate income. They are crucial in multidimensional integrated anti-poverty strategies both at the national and EU levels.
They help to:
- Guarantee a minimum standard of living and a decent life for all
- Enable people to fully participate in society
MIS target people unable to access decent employment, not earning enough from employment, no longer entitled to other types of social benefits (e.g. after expiration of unemployment benefits) and/or retiring with short pension contribution periods. Well-designed and effective MIS play a vital role in providing income protection and – when coupled with enabling essential services – they can provide a route out of poverty to those people who are most in need. They are also the foundation for building more equal and socially-just societies, if sustainably financed through redistributive progressive tax systems.
Even though in 2023, all EU Member States have minimum income schemes in place, they vary significantly across countries in terms of adequacy and accessibility, to the point that no European minimum income scheme matches the actual needs of beneficiaries, our members report. They fail to lift millions of people above the poverty line and leave the individuals concerned stigmatised, isolated and trapped in a cycle of poverty and social exclusion. This is particularly the case for vulnerable groups who face higher risks of poverty and social exclusion, and for whom minimum income schemes are important safety nets. Given this, EAPN welcomes the Council Recommendation on Adequate Minimum Income ensuring active inclusion, formally adopted as A-item at the Council of the European Union on 30 January 2023, as a step forward in implementing principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights. However, we warn that a Recommendation remains entirely voluntary in its application by EU Member States. EU soft law has not allowed sufficient and sustainable progress on poverty reduction. For EAPN, the only way to ensure an adequate income for all across the EU is a Framework Directive on Minimum Income with a common set of such minimum requirements and provisions. These should include coverage, accessibility, adequacy, enabling character and regular updates of amounts.
In particular, EAPN regrets:
- The lack of an explicit universal rights-based approach to adequate minimum income, which overcomes discrimination and unequal access and leaves no one behind.
- That Member States are recommended to regularly review and, whenever relevant, adjust the level of minimum income in order to maintain the adequacy of income support.
- The lack of a common EU-wide framework and methodology on reference budgets.
- The lack of concrete sustainability measures/best practices on the financing of MIS.
- That access to minimum income is based on proportionate length of legal residence, thereby potentially excluding individuals with temporary residence, refugees and undocumented migrants.
- That the collection of disaggregated data was only requested on the grounds of sex, age and disability.
- That there are no concrete measures to overcome structural discriminatory and biased approaches and non-take-up by vulnerable groups such as Roma, refugees, women, racialised minorities, and undocumented migrants
- That it does not specify the age from which adequate minimum income should be available.
- That the responsibility for the triennial reporting moved from Member States to the European Commission and that the participation of minimum income recipients was not included in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation stages.
- That there is little mention of the need for coordination and integration of minimum income support and social services provision.
In conclusion, the current Minimum Income Schemes are failing to get people out of poverty which is a violation of their fundamental rights. According to Eurostat, in 2021, 95.4 million people were estimated to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion. EAPN strongly believes that social protection is not only about social justice or human rights. It is also a good investment from an economic point of view.
Therefore, we reiterate our urgent call for a binding EU Framework Directive on Adequate Minimum, which must be designed with meaningful participation of civil society organisations and people experiencing poverty and take into consideration the above recommendations. We count on all EU Member States to guarantee principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, that is, the right to minimum income, for everybody, throughout their lives, that is adequate, accessible, and enabling, underpinned by social rights and a human-rights approach.