Social security assumes top priority

IF – 03/2023

The European Council Recommendation on adequate minimum income to ensure active inclusion and a self-determined life was adopted by the Ministers of Social Affairs of the Employment, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Policy Council (EPSCO) in December 2022 under the Czech Council Presidency.

Why is a minimum income scheme necessary?

The recommendation on adequate minimum income aims at poverty eradication and social exclusion. In order to achieve a high level of employment throughout Europe, political and financial measures such as adequate income support through an adequate minimum income scheme are a useful support, especially in crisis situations and exceptional life situations. A minimum income scheme can promote access to supportive and essential services for the underprivileged. The aim is to ensure and strengthen a consolidated life in dignity at all stages of life. People with disabilities in particular can benefit from the minimum income scheme.

Further expansion of social security

The European Council calls on Member States to strengthen social security networks. All Member States offer social protection systems, but progress in terms of accessibility and adequacy of these networks is not uniform across Europe. The European Council recommends that Member States build and continue to strengthen resilient social security systems. A reinforcement could be made possible by income support precisely through those minimum social security benefits. Cash and in-kind benefits should be linked and access to support and core services should be better enabled. The level of the minimum income is to be determined by the Member States themselves on the basis of their national regulations.

The European Parliament calls for raising national minimum incomes

The debate in the political landscape is not yet over because of the European Council recommendation. Members of Parliament call for more support and better accessibility of citizens and see the recommendation as a step in the right direction. Members of Parliament want a new law to raise the national minimum income in the Member States in order to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

Therefore, they have asked the European Commission and the Council by means of a Q&A session in the plenary session on 15 March to explain further steps. Members of Parliament wanted to know how Member States ensure that minimum income schemes do not step on social policies in areas such as housing, healthcare, support for disabled people or labour market integration. There was disagreement within the parliamentary groups as to whether a directive was a sensible measure or not. Whether there are plans by the European Commission and the Council for this and how these will affect the national security systems remains questionable so far.

The Plenary adopted the resolution as amended by 336 votes in favour, 174 against and 121 abstentions.