Legally binding regulations should exert pressure

Dr. S-W – 10/2020

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.