The COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the sharp increase in energy prices and rising inflation have hit low-income households hardest, increasing poverty and inequality. The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) believes therefore that the implementation of the Council Recommendation on an adequate minimum income should be fast-tracked across the EU Member States. The opinion was drafted by Chair of Kerava City Council Anne Karjalainen (FI/PES) and adopted at the plenary session on 8 February.
One of the headline targets of the Action Plan for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights is reducing the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion by at least 15 million by 2030. Despite efforts, levels of poverty and social exclusion have further deteriorated and more than 90 million Europeans were at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2021 – before Russia's invasion of Ukraine with its consequences. The CoR, representing local and regional authorities across the EU, considers that the urgency of the situation calls for the implementation of the Recommendation to be brought forward by three years to 2027.
The opinion prepared by Anne Karjalainen stresses that Member States should focus on the root causes of poverty and take effective measures to guarantee fair wages and decent work, quality basic services, adequate income support and individualised social services. The European Union and the Member States, in cooperation with local and regional authorities, should also develop specific measures to reduce and eradicate homelessness and energy poverty.
“The swift adoption by the Council of the Recommendation on minimum income is a step in the right direction, but the urgent need for action to guarantee a minimum income across the EU begs further reflection about the most effective regulatory framework to implement such measures at European level”, says the rapporteur, who also calls for clarity as to the definition of "proportionate" and "gradual" action referred to in the Recommendation.
Estrella Durá Ferrandis (ES/S&D), MEP and co-rapporteur on the European Parliament’s resolution on adequate minimum income ensuring active inclusion, said: "It is necessary to ensure that all people in a vulnerable situation or at risk of poverty are covered by a minimum income scheme, complementary to other employment and social support schemes, guaranteeing a decent income for those who need it most. In order to combat poverty and growing social inequalities, binding EU legislation is needed to ensure decent minimum income schemes in all EU countries, and to foster the integration of all people into a quality labour market."
The European Parliament is scheduled to adopt the resolution at next week's plenary session in Strasbourg.
The CoR opinion points out that an updated, fully-fledged European benchmarking framework for minimum income schemes, based on a transparent approach and comparable data is necessary. It underlines that workable minimum income schemes and services have a stabilising effect on the overall economy, as eradicating poverty and reducing income inequalities are important not only to promote social justice but also to support economic growth. More specifically, the Committee argues that, in order to meaningfully fight poverty, minimum income support should help people rise above the national-at-risk-of poverty threshold. Furthermore, it underlines the importance of swift and full implementation of the Minimum Wage Directive alongside the Recommendation on minimum income. Particular attention should be paid to improving the employment rate of women and narrowing the pay gap, reducing child poverty and integrating young people into the labour market.
In the CoR's view, minimum income schemes should have individualised elements that remove barriers to returning to and staying in work and ensure that work pays, while increasing social inclusion. Cities and regions also underline that the green transition and the carbon-neutral economy must reflect the social dimension and support the upskilling of people at risk of unemployment, the unemployed or the economically inactive.
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