Today is the deadline for responding to the Commission consultation on “Action at EU level to promote the active inclusion of the people furthest from the labour market”. As one of the main EU stakeholders, the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) has sent its response to the Commission, in which it calls for the EU to confirm the basic right to minimum income, providing adequate income levels to sustain a dignified life for all, regardless of employment status.
Launched by the European Commission on 8 February, the consultation aims to identify possible guidelines for action at EU level, with a view to promoting the active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market.
In its response, EAPN welcomes this debate on the need for a more effective minimum income strategy at EU level. It also welcomes the concept of “active inclusion” which sets out for the first time a comprehensive policy mix integrating a link to the labour market, income support and better access to services. However, EAPN calls for support to strategies that empower and meet the needs of all people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, without insisting on work as the only route.
An ambiguous tone…
EAPN is concerned that the ambiguous tone of the consultation could appear to give more priority to preventing social assistance schemes from acting as a disincentive to work, rather than ensuring that minimum income schemes are effective in keeping people out of poverty. This could add to the pressure to use minimum income schemes as a punitive lever to force vulnerable people into sometimes inappropriate and low-paid jobs which can be bad for their health or well-being, because of fear of sanctions or reductions in benefit.
According to EAPN, this approach would also miss out on a key opportunity to challenge the Poor Job Trap, an increasingly emergent problem in EU Member States, where jobs with low wages or/and poor conditions provide no escape from poverty and where low minimum incomes are used to justify low wages, in a downward spiral.
Such an interpretation could be seen as the crudest reflection of the new Jobs and Growth focus of the revised Lisbon Strategy, which so often appears to have forgotten the Council’s commitment to making substantial steps towards eradicating poverty by 2010.
Minimum income as an EU basic right
EAPN strongly supports the view that the Commission should build on the Council recommendation of 1992 on the basic right to sufficient resources. This means starting from the real needs of those furthest from the labour market, with a robust defence of the right to adequate minimum income and access to quality services.
“The outcome of the consultation should be viewed as a key test of the commitments made by the Council at Hampton Court to defend high levels of social protection as a key EU value in the European Social Model, to promote more effective strategies to support people in poverty into work, to promote social inclusion, and to ensure their access to quality services”, stated Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN. “Together these commitments would offer a key opportunity for the EU to make a significant contribution towards the eradication of poverty by 2010”.
For further information, please contact Vincent Forest (Information officer) or Fintan Farrell (Director), tel. +32 2 230 44 55 – fax. +32 2 230 97 33 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: www.eapn.org