In today’s Italian political environment, ideological hostility toward solidarity and equality is now well established, reflected in the Meloni government’s recent approach to Minimum Income and social rights in general. The repeal of the previous Minimum Income scheme is cause for concern because of its impact on the social structure and values of the country.
Indeed, the government’s recent decision to remove the ‘The Citizens’ Income’, in other words, the Italian Minimum Income scheme, by the Five Star Movement and replace it with new and less ambitious economic support instruments raises crucial questions about the impact on poverty and social inclusion. At a time when economic inequality is a global challenge and commitment, when the most vulnerable are still recovering from multiple crises since 2019 and when the recent Council Recommendation On Adequate Minimum Income leaves no doubt about the path to be followed, the direction taken by the Italian government is paddling in the opposite direction, reflecting once more the need for a directive at the European level.
This new scheme, enforced since 3 July 2023, includes two new instruments:
- an inclusion cheque reserved exclusively for households with minors, elderly or family members with a disability,
- a conditional cash grant scheme for vocational training for unemployed people who do not belong to the above-mentioned disadvantaged categories.
The first support for families with “fragile” members will be disbursed from January 2024 at a minimum of €480 per month and will have a very similar approach to the old minimum income scheme, the second benefit, conditional on participation in training and strong work activation measures, with a maximum duration of 12 months and an amount of €350 per month, represents a significant reduction in terms of benefits and time coverage.
Promises kept, therefore, by Prime Minister Meloni, who, in her campaign in the 2022 elections, had used as the workhorse of her campaign the dismantling of the Minimum Income, a central instrument for fighting poverty.
This clash is more than ever reflected in budgetary cuts over the years, the dismantling of working conditions and the underdevelopment of many areas of the country is simply ignored, instead, the scapegoating of the most vulnerable communities and minorities held responsible for the crises.
Rather, there is a blind ideological rage that addresses the roots causes of poverty, a far-right- policy driven by an aversion to any minimally redistributive policy and solidarity that protects social rights.
The decision to terminate the Citizens’ Income benefits, which was notified through an aseptic SMS, was followed by a significant drop in the number of citizens’ income recipients, a number that was destined to grow. Now, about 500,000 families will be excluded from the “inclusion check”, no longer covered by the new criteria. This brutal push toward the labour market is made in a context where 12% of workers are in poverty and the unemployment rate almost reaches 8% (OECD, 2023).
Whilst one in four Italians is at risk of poverty, and access to work does not coincide with escaping poverty, any form of inclusion is at risk with the far-right in power. The minimum income is not only a last resort, aiming at guaranteeing a minimum standard of living but also a direct tool for building an inclusive democracy: an adequate minimum income is a precious condition to enable individual self-realization, building social fabrics and contribute to the decision-making processes that affect their lives.
The hostility toward social progress has also affected human rights defenders and organisations fighting for migrants’ rights accused of being linked to human traffickers and trying to get rich on the backs of migrants. This suspicion quickly spread to all humanitarian organizations, even those that have nothing to do with migrants or sea rescues, placing them at the centre of a defamation campaign. These practices ensure the government remains unaccountable for its decisions, making the political space highly hostile and unsafe for all opposing voices.
The situation of disinvesting in social policies is even worse as it takes place at a time when Italy is struggling to implement its Recovery and Resilience Programme. These financial resources could be a valuable economic incentive to implement the Council Recommendation on Adequate Minimum Income and guarantee the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan for all.
The dangerous normalisation of far-right discourses in several national contexts in Europe is cause for great concern for the future of social rights. Therefore, EAPN calls for civil society, progressive political parties and citizens to show more than ever solidarity for the most fragile and support to social and human rights. Far-rights are more than ever to be combatted, including their parties and their ideas. We need to oppose to them with solidarity, care for the most fragile and excluded and have a strong commitment to equality.
 TASSE, F. E. (2023). Assegno di inclusione: le regole aggiornate. Retrieved from https://www.fiscoetasse.com/rassegna-stampa/33738-assegno-di-inclusione-le-regole-aggiornate.html
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 ETUC, E. a. (2020). ETUI and ETUC (2020) Benchmarking working Europe, Brussels, ETUI. Brussels: ETUI and ETUC. Retrieved from https://www.etuc.org/en/pressrelease/pay-rises-needed-work-poverty-rises-12-eu
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