The requirements set for people to qualify for minimum income schemes in the Member States are becoming more uniform, according to a draft European Commission report, which looks at the implementation of the EU's June 1992 Recommendation so as to assess how these schemes are faring in the fight against poverty. The report nevertheless concludes that solely a minority of minimum income beneficiaries can hope to be included in general social security schemes again (based on insurance or contributions). Significant differences still exist amongst EU countries as regards how these measures fit into social protection systems or their relationship to other social and employment support systems. Measures recommended for improving the lot of beneficiaries include optimising the level of social protection on offer, making it easier for beneficiaries to find jobs again and promoting their inclusion in the main economic and social sectors. As part of this policy, the Commission is also looking for a bigger input from both sides of business ("social partners", NGOs and key civil society players.

The report stops short of citing figures, but it does note that "the number of minimum income beneficiaries has risen since the end of the 1980s". There appear to be two main factors behind this rise. The first is higher and more persistent unemployment. The second relates to a rise in the numbers who have experienced social disruption (prison, family breakdown, forced migration, homelessness, over-indebtedness, etc.). Compared to the overall population, single men and single-parent families are over-represented.

The report describes the various types of social transfers developed nationally as final safety nets. The support is targeted on the poorest sections of the population, it covers their essential needs, and it is non-contributory. The Member States may link their minimum incomes in varying degrees to measures seeking to smooth the path to employment, but the report notes that these measures still have a limited impact.

Minimum incomes and social protection.

Dating back to the very beginning of public social assistance to the poor and disadvantaged, minimum income schemes have been incorporated to varying degrees into social protection systems. The national system may be divided into three major groups:

-In Germany, Belgium, Austria, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, social insurance is based on employment. Responsibility for management of...

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