Minimum income, it’s time for an EU legal framework

By Caritas Europa

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has a big impact on everyone, but it especially affects the most vulnerable in our societies. In Europe, it has increased the challenge to meet SDG 1 – End poverty; people experiencing poverty are enduring exceptional hardship. A minimum income is the last safety net for people without other income sources, wages, or insufficient benefits to live with dignity.

In the EU, people have the right to a minimum income based on their income, family size and other criteria. Regrettably, minimum income schemes in many EU countries are inadequate to ensure a dignified life. One of the most urgent issues is the eligibility criteria. Right now, far too many people are left behind.

Caritas Spain reports that more than half of the eligible population – Spanish households in severe poverty with incomes lower than 40% of the national median – have not received any information about how to apply. For nearly 11% of those entitled, the received information was insufficient to help them to apply.

Common standards of support for Europe’s poorest are essential to enhance life chances. The best way to guarantee this is an EU framework directive on minimum income systems. Caritas Europa calls for such a directive that sets criteria based on evidence and data of people experiencing poverty and our analysis of the realities on the ground.

Caritas Europa and its member organisations explain in this position paper why such a framework is necessary for the EU, suggesting the standards to be set, and showing how the EU as a whole, the Member States, and the people in need will benefit from such a legally binding instrument.

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