The coalition government is shaping the last fringes of the minimum vital income, which will approve this Friday in an extraordinary Extraordinary Council of Ministers. The aid will serve as a minimum income floor throughout the State for families with less economic resources. Although the numbers still vary a little with the latest adjustments, the Executive estimates that aid will finally reach 850,000 households, compared to a million in the initial estimates. This practically triples the protection of the population with fewer resources in Spain, since currently only “about 300,000 households” receive minimum incomes in the country, according to data from the team that is designing the measure.
The coverage of minimum incomes, that is, how many people in poverty do these grants reach, is one of the weak points of the Spanish social protection system. Currently, there are only the minimum insertion incomes implemented by the Autonomous Communities and they leave more than 90% of the poor people in Spain without receiving this type of aid, According to the latest data from the Association of Directors and Managers of Social Services.
Furthermore, protection varies greatly by territory. While in the Basque Country the minimum income covers 70% of people at risk of poverty in this Community, in Castilla-La Mancha they only protect 1.6% of the population in poverty. The average for Spain is very low, at 7.6%.
The minimum vital income that the Government will approve this week creates a minimum income at the state level, which will guarantee an income floor throughout the State for 14 different types of households, according to their composition. The minimum will be 461 euros, in one person’s homes, and will reach a maximum of just under 1,100 for homes with more members and among them minors, as explained in an interview in El Periódico the Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá.
Two of those responsible for the elaboration of this new measure against poverty, Milagros Paniagua (Secretary General of Objectives and Policies for Inclusion and Social Security) and Nacho Álvarez (Secretary of State for Social Policies), have commented on Monday afternoon some of the characteristics of aid in a debate organized by Oxfam Intermón. Among them, this great increase in coverage of the population at risk of poverty.
“Today we have in Spain about 300,000 households that receive minimum income benefits,” said Nacho Álvarez, according to the figures that the Executive manages, so the jump in social protection of these most vulnerable households will be significant with the start-up of income. vital minimum, which will reach some 850,000 homes, “about 2.3 million people,” added Milagros Paniagua.
The importance of guaranteeing the maximum possible coverage of the population at risk of poverty with the minimum vital income was highlighted this Monday both by Fran Cortada, new director of Oxfam Intermón, and by Philip Alston, former UN rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights . Both present in the debate organized by the NGO, warned public representatives that the limited reach of the vulnerable population due to the existing social aid is one of the factors that explain Spain’s poor ability to reduce poverty compared to its European partners.
Alston, who visited Spain a few months ago while still holding the position of UN rapporteur, especially highlighted the high level of severe poverty he found in many parts of the country. “It has become very clear to me that there are two Spain”, concluded the Australian, the best known and visited by millions of tourists every year, and another on the fringes of the public light characterized by “widespread poverty and a high level of unemployment, a housing crisis of disturbing proportions, a completely inadequate protection system” .
Philip Alston has welcomed the fact that the Spanish Government has decided to implement this minimum income at the state level, but has warned of the danger of conditioning aid with too many red tape and that it falls short in the fight against the most acute poverty.
As Milagros Paniagua and the minister himself explained, the Executive intends to reduce severe poverty by around 80%, but uses an income threshold below 30% of the median as an indicator. At European level, Eurostat sets the amount at 40% of the median, which raises the threshold and includes more people in the definition of “severe poverty”. Alston has appreciated that, although it is a step “in the right direction”, considering severe poverty using the 30% indicator “is clearly low.”
The job search condition
The presence in the debate of Milagros Paniagua, from the Inclusion Ministry led by Escrivá, and Nacho Álvarez, from the vice-presidency of Pablo Iglesias, has revealed some of the fringes that remain to be closed between both teams, which have had some differences in the management of the minimum vital income.
One of them is the conditionality of the minimum income to the job search. Minister José Luis Escrivá has stated in a couple of interviews that the Minimum Vital Income will be linked to the job search.
“This is a benefit to move towards a better situation in society. There is a part of conditionality that has to do with job search but we know that there is a significant part of these households whose owners are not immediately employable, and that is why we prefer talk about inclusion itineraries, which will be defined based on agreements with autonomous regions and municipalities, “he explained to El Periodico.
In this sense, Milagros Paniagua also spoke on Monday, but not Nacho Álvarez, who stressed that it will be granted as a “subjective right” for people who simply do not reach a certain income. “The minimum vital income is not going to be conditioned to social and labor inclusion itineraries. That is the responsibility of the Autonomous Communities, they can apply it on their part,” said Álvarez, who pointed out that although state income is not conditioned by these itineraries “That does not mean that you have no employment incentives.”
Given the differences, Oxfam has asked policy makers if they could clarify whether or not there would be conditionality of the state minimum income, but Paniagua and Álvarez have preferred to wait until all the details are closed and the measure is approved. Both have stressed that the measure that will be released this week is “historic” in social protection in Spain and that it will contribute to making the system more redistributive, since aid currently benefits more households with more resources than those most in need, according to figures from organizations such as the OECD.