human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Minimum income schemes to ensure dignity for all

A safety net for everyone in Europe

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Caritas Europa believes that minimum income schemes are indispensable to achieve poverty eradication in Europe as stated in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At the EU level, the necessity of adequate minimum income schemes is also manifested in the European Pillar of Social Rights and at Council of Europe level in the European Social Charter.

Based on that and ahead of the upcoming German EU Council presidency (July-December 2020) that is expected to present a proposal for a minimum income framework, Caritas Europa presents this position paper. The 10 principles described in this paper are meant to contribute to the German presidency initiative and to help get the all Member States on board. The same objective is behind the joint recommendations that were the outcome of the workshop ‘Adequate, accesible and enabling minimun income schemes accross Europe – The time for action is now!”, organised by the German Presidency and led by Caritas Europa and allies on September 16.

Caritas defines minimum income schemes as benefits and services that together constitute a safety net for people who, whether in or out of employment, have insufficient financial resources to ensure a minimum standard of living for themselves, including any dependents. Minimum income schemes are a last resort intended to ensure a dignified life for all.

The Caritas CARES! European and Country reports 2019 show that not all European countries have a minimum income provision and that some of the existing ones are inadequate. It is crucial to improve this situation.

In this position paper, we propose that European standards for minimum income systems should be flexible in order to achieve upward social convergence, meaning that while some provisions in such a framework must be binding from the beginning and be addressed to all EU Member States, other provisions may only apply to individual Member States. We also recommend it should be legally binding and implemented as an EU directive to ensure its implementations.