As Europe’s population struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, ministers from Spain, Italy and Portugal are pushing to revive a long pushed-aside idea within the EU: An EU-wide minimum income. Tanzia Haq reports.
Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister for social rights and leader of the Podemos party in Spain, told the Guardian: “This is the moment for debates about social protection, anyone who finds themselves in a vulnerable situation should have access to protection mechanisms that allow them to fill their fridge and care for their family.”
As a result of the pandemic, millions of people lost their jobs and incomes, potentially sparking a gigantic recession that will take years to recover from. The minimum wage measure, as argued by the three states’ leaders, could protect more than 113 million people facing a plunge into poverty and social exclusion.
Iglesias and labor ministers Nunzia Catalfo of Italy, and Ana Mendes Godinho of Portugal together called for the EU-wide minimum income. The measure will provide a safety net to EU citizens whose incomes have fallen below a certain level due to the pandemic. The proposal is being pushed in the hopes that other countries would join in and set the criteria for the amount, eligibility and how the wage will be funded.
Spain is already preparing to introduce a national minimum income, a first in the country. The government plans to spend 3 billion euros annually to top-up the monthly incomes of 850,000 households. The initiative was already being pushed through parliament since late 2019 as part of a coalition deal between the socialist party and their junior partner Podemos. Now, Iglesias and others are upping the urgency to push through this legislature after the pandemic left nearly 7 million Spanish citizens dependent on state assistance.