The Council of the European Union adopted on 9th October the conclusions on strengthening minimum income protection in the EU, with the aim to combat poverty and social exclusion in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The Council recognises that minimum income schemes serve the purposes of mitigating the negative socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and supporting peoples’ social and labour market inclusion. This is to the benefit of the most disadvantaged groups in society, including people hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

The conclusions invite the Member States to ensure that their national protection schemes meet the relevant recommendations of the Union and the International Labour Organisation, are accessible and adequate and enable beneficiaries’ social and labour market inclusion. Member States should also engage with stakeholders concerned, including social partners, in the development, updating and implementation of these schemes. Together with the European Commission, Member States should collaborate the implement the European Pillar of Social Rights and commit themselves to address the remaining gaps in minimum income protection schemes. Moreover, targeted support from available EU funds, e.g. the European Social Fund Plus and the Next Generation EU recovery instruments, should be used in the best possible way to promote social inclusion and labour market participation and to tackle poverty.

From its side, the Commission should initiate an update of the Union framework to effectively support and complement the policies of the Member States on national minimum income protection schemes. Together with the Social Protection Committee and the Employment Committee, the Commission is invited to develop further the existing benchmarking in the area of minimum income protection and prepare periodically a joint report to analyse and review progress achieved.