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Minimum income: more effective support needed to fight poverty and promote employment

The Commission yesterday called on Member States to modernise their minimum income schemes as part of the ongoing pledge to reduce poverty and social exclusion in Europe. The proposed Council Recommendation on adequate minimum income ensuring active inclusion sets out how Member States can modernise their minimum income schemes to make them more effective, lifting people out of poverty, while promoting the labour market integration of those who can work.

Minimum income is cash payments that help households who need it to bridge the gap to a certain income level to pay the bills and live a life in dignity. They are particularly important in times of economic downturns, helping to cushion drops in household income for people most in need, thereby contributing to sustainable and inclusive growth. They are generally complemented with in-kind benefits giving access to services and targeted incentives to access the labour market. In this way, minimum income schemes are not a passive tool but act as a springboard to improve inclusion and employment prospects. Well-designed minimum income schemes strike a balance between alleviating poverty, incentivising work and maintaining sustainable budgetary costs.

Minimum income and social safety nets must incorporate sufficient incentives and support for beneficiaries who can work to reintegrate in the labour market. Their design should therefore also help to fully realise the potential of the green and digital transitions by supporting labour market transitions and active participation of disadvantaged people.

The social and economic advantages of adequate and targeted social safety nets became even more important during the lockdowns linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adequate minimum income is highly relevant in the current context of rising energy prices and inflation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine as income measures can be targeted to specifically benefit vulnerable groups.

The proposal will help achieve the EU's 2030 social targets to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty of exclusion by at least 15 million people as set in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. It will also help Member States reach the goal that at least 78% of the population aged 20 to 64 should be in employment.

Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, yesterday said:

Social protection systems help to reduce social inequalities and differences. They ensure a dignified life for those who cannot work - and for those who can, encourage them back to a job. At a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet, it will be important this autumn for Member States to modernise their social safety nets with an active inclusion approach to help those most in need. This is how we can fight poverty and social exclusion, and help more people into work during this challenging period.

Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, yesterday said:

Today, more than one in five people in the EU are at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Minimum income schemes exist in all Member States, but analysis shows that they are not always adequate, reach all those in need, or motivate people to return to the labour market. Against a backdrop of soaring living costs and uncertainty, we must ensure our safety nets are up to the task. We should pay particular attention to getting young people back into work also through income support, so they do not get trapped in a vicious cycle of exclusion.”

Well-designed social safety nets to help people in need

While minimum income exists in all Member States, their adequacy, reach, and effectiveness in supporting people vary significantly.

Yesterday's proposal for a Council Recommendation offers clear guidance to Member States on how to ensure that their minimum income schemes are effective in fighting poverty and promoting active inclusion in society and labour markets.

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