Unlike in the Council, there is a
widespread call in European civil society circles for binding guidelines for
national minimum income schemes. The most recent statement on this issue was
published in September by the European umbrella organisation "Social
Platform", entitled "An EU Framework Directive on Adequate Minimum Income".
A directive shall establish minimum
standards for calculating adequate income support throughout the EU. According
to the Platform, "adequate" requires an income which is at least
equal to the value of the national poverty threshold - the threshold of poverty
risk. This is 60% of the national median income. In this instance,
"median" is not the average, but the value that is exceeded by one
half of the people and undercut by the other half.
According to calculations by the OECD and
the European Commission, only two countries currently meet this target: Ireland
and the Netherlands. Germany, for example, falls short by more than 20%; the EU
average is as high as 40%.
The 60% target was to be supplemented by
the scale of a shopping basket, measured in national prices.
The adequate minimum income must be granted
for an unlimited period of time to anyone, who needs it and is "de
facto" resident in the territory of the EU. So in principle, a means test
should be permissible. Sanctions, partial or total reductions must be ruled
out. Apparently, the Platform shares the view that the minimum income should be
paid even if recipients are not prepared to take up work.
In addition to the minimum income, access
to high-quality and affordable health care and (social) services should be
guaranteed, which serve social and labour market integration.
Apart from its core demands, the
platform identifies certain groups of people, who are particularly at risk of
poverty and exclusion or have a comparatively higher need for security, such
as, in particular people with disabilities.
Finally, older people are also included in
these groups. Compared to younger people, they would have higher income needs,
for example due to higher mobility, health or care costs. This had to be taken
into account when calculating a reference shopping basket specifically tailored
to this group of people. "Minimum pensions" are an important form of
a minimum income to avoid poverty in old age.
Statements such as these show that the
ideas of a European "needs-based" and poverty-preventing minimum
income can very quickly translate into demands on the social security systems –
which then usually provide benefits even without means testing.