Apr 20, 2022 Conferences

Ferpa Secretariat participated to the webinar “Calling for an EU framework directive on minimum income” held
on 30/3/2022 and organized by ETUC. Here the summary report:
Participants for FERPA: Agostino SICILIANO, Secretary General; Henri LOURDELLE,
FERPA Special Advisor and note taker and Jessica MONTIEL, P.A. of the Secretary
This meeting was opened by Liina CARR, ETUC Confederal Secretary. It is organised
jointly by the ETUI and the ETUC. It is part of the joint ETUI-ETUC research project for a
European framework directive for the introduction of a minimum income. This research
project is also a follow-up to the SocialAll project which aims to develop a new concept of
“ageing with dignity” and explore ways to ensure good protection against poverty and social
exclusion at all ages. Despite the efforts made by the ETUC and NGOs, there are still no
concrete results regarding the European minimum income. Liina also recalled that the
adoption of provisions in the field of social protection requires the unanimity of the Member
States. Today, the two researchers, Professor David NATALI and Dr. Andrea TERLIZZI
from the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies, who have been working on this project will
share with us the results of their work and research. Today, the focus is more on demographic
changes and on people at retirement age. However, we must not forget the European Social
Rights Framework and its principle 15 which states that “every person of advanced age has
the right to resources enabling him or her to live in dignity”.
After this initial introduction, the floor was given to Nicola COUNTOURIS, Director of the
ETUI Research Department. He said that he was pleased to have been able to take part in this
project where research and policy come together. He also insisted on its multidimensional
character. There are also strong regional disparities, even gaps between East and West, but
also between North and South of Europe. These are amplified by different social security
models. However, the health sector has been dysfunctional for several decades and
pensioners’ incomes have fallen over time. The impact of the priority given to reducing public
debt has affected the resources allocated to social security systems.
Next, Marina MONACO, ETUC Councillor, spoke about the European political and
institutional context of research. She emphasised the operational aspects, taking care not to
oversimplify the situation. We want to fight poverty by putting in place sufficient “safety
nets”. But we must not ignore the demographic problems. It is no coincidence that older
people are affected by poverty: health costs have increased.
The floor was then given to the two researchers. David NATALI indicated that they would
share the initial results of their research using a PowerPoint presentation. The first finding
was that the risk of poverty across Europe is complex to analyse, especially if you are looking
at solutions, looking at how the European Union is addressing these issues. The window of
opportunity of the SocialAll project, where there was hope for a directive, has closed. The
risk of poverty is increasing in this post-pandemic context. This project started a month and a
half ago and initially consisted of collecting as much information as possible. The two
researchers are now finalising it. In a few slides, he will try to summarise a 60-page
document, highlighting the main elements in this first analysis.
The first part of the report assesses the risk of poverty in Europe, even though there is
currently little information on the post-Covid situation. Minimum income schemes do not
exist in all Member States, nor do minimum pensions. And it is difficult to assess their
effectiveness. In particular, indicators need to be improved in order to be able to propose a
real anti-poverty strategy at European level. However, there has been a massive increase in
the number of people at risk of poverty in Europe, with a strong impact of the economic
recession that has deepened after the pandemic. Poverty risks are affected by gender: women
are even more at risk of poverty as they get older. But the risks are also higher in the 18-25
age group. For the over 65s, additional indicators are needed. It is also observed that there are
groups of countries where this risk is higher, in the Baltic countries or in the countries of
South-East Europe, whereas in the Nordic countries or in the countries of South-West Europe
this risk is lower, because they have put in place more effective protections. In other words,
the risk depends on where you live. Older women have the same risk of poverty as younger
cohorts of women. According to EuroFound, the difficulties of “making ends meet” are very
clear for older people, particularly because of the costs of energy, housing and heating.
Unmet medical needs have increased after the pandemic.
A small debate was then opened. Marina intervened to say that it would be interesting to
know the vulnerabilities according to age. She also mentioned intergenerational solidarity and
said that a guaranteed pension should be discussed. She also asked about the minimum
standards that exist in Europe. Henri, Special Adviser to FERPA, said that the risk of poverty
was indeed very “gendered” and this was even truer for older women, especially as they lived
longer and as they aged, they often found themselves alone. Indeed, statistics show that over
the age of 80, there are five elderly women for every elderly man. If possible, the study
should therefore be refined for people over 75 years of age. Furthermore, as mentioned, but it
should be stressed, to assess the risk of poverty, several parameters other than monetary ones
should be taken into account, such as housing, energy, isolation, health, etc. Finally, to take
up the EuroFound study, if before the pandemic, elderly people had particular difficulties in
“making ends meet”, this proved even more difficult after the pandemic. Henri concluded by
saying that he is very much looking forward to the final outcome of the research which may
help to refine and even corroborate FERPA’s own analysis. FERPA Secretary General,
Agostino SICILIANO also took the floor to react to Henri’s remarks. FERPA has drafted a
Manifesto which includes all the aspects mentioned today. It had been presented to the
President of the European Parliament and it had been agreed with her to have further
meetings on the Manifesto. He asked whether the slides presented today would be available,
especially in Italian.
David NATALLI thanked for the interventions, in particular Henri’s, he said, and responded
favourably to the FERPA Secretary General’s request to have the slides in Italian. He said he
was also willing to identify the particular situations of the different groups.
Andrea TERLIZZI took the floor. He agreed that poverty is not only linked to income, the
lack of material means contributes to it, according to survey data, but that this says a lot about
systemic data. He also noted that there is a difference between the introduction of a minimum
income and the minimum pension. When minimum incomes are below the poverty line, they
are not effective in protecting against the risk of poverty in old age. The more universal the
systems are, the more effective they are in combating poverty. The message from the study is
that, on average, minimum pensions, where they exist, “outperform” minimum incomes.
Andrea also underlines the difficulty of comparing data, given the heterogeneity of the
systems that exist in Europe. What definition of minimum income? Marina wondered how to
achieve upward convergence. FERPA Secretary General, Agostino SICILIANO, agreed that
it was difficult to compare the different systems. There is indeed a difference between the
minimum income and the minimum pension. It is also necessary to evaluate in the different
countries the efficiency and the costs of the services that the elderly need, starting with health
care, which can be considered as indirect income to be taken into account when talking about
comparing pensions. There are too many differences
Henri reiterated that some countries have minimum pensions, but according to a study he had
carried out a few years ago for FERPA, only two countries that had such a system had
minimum pensions equal to or higher than the poverty line of the country concerned. This
was the case for Belgium and Luxembourg. The representative of the CSC intervened in turn
to say that this was a very interesting study. She also asked to receive this material in order to
be able to organise internal debates and if it was possible to send her reactions when the
complete document was available.