What should an adequate old-age income entail to live in dignity?
Learnings from France, Ireland and Poland
In the framework of European Minimum Income Network – EMIN (2013-2014), AGE carried out a thematic research on the adequacy of old-age minimum income schemes in France, Ireland and Poland.
The issue of income adequacy is particularly relevant for older people, who rely more than any other age groups on the payments from the state or public social security systems through both contributory (pensions) and non-contributory (social assistance) schemes.
The project looked at the adequacy of minimum income protection for older people from a participatory point of view. AGE used an evidence-based methodology (provided by Bérénice Storms, Cebud (Thomas More), on defining reference budgets for an adequate old-age minimum income. Older people in the three countries were actively involved in discussing what an adequate minimum income should entail to enable full social participation of older people.
The project also discussed ‘reference budgets’, in particular the role they can play in defining and assessing the adequacy of a minimum income. The goal was not to develop (monetise) reference budgets for older people per se, but rather to define what an adequate old-age minimum income should entail in a given national context i.e. including essential physical and social needs that enable older people to participate fully in society. Reference budgets have a clear normative interpretation. Every item (good or service) included in the basket has a societal function, describing precisely the roles the person able to afford this item may be able to satisfy.
- The study indicates the same definition of social participation across the three pilot countries. In addition, many commonalities were observed in the identification of essential goods and services. This was also the case with the respective underlying needs identified in the three countries as being necessary for full social participation.
- Despite these commonalities, significant differences were observed regarding the adequacy of old-age minimum income protection and the validity of the 60% poverty line in the respective national contexts.
- This suggests a question about the relevance of measuring poverty with income-based tools only, such as the 60% threshold of the median income.
Main policy recommendations from AGE:
- When defining the adequate level of old-age minimum income, refer with cautiousness to the relative poverty threshold – this measure provides information about income distribution within society, but does not address the question of needs that different population groups or the most vulnerable persons may have.
- Develop reference budgets for an adequate old-age income using baskets of goods and services adapted to specific sub-groups – break down population 65+ by gender and by cohorts 65-75, 75-85 and over 85 years old) in order to reflect the evolving needs older people have as they age e.g. higher cost of long-term care for the oldest old.
- Reference budgets should also take account of non-monetary aspects, such as access to quality health and long-term care services, education and long life learning, decent housing, leisure and social activities or civic participation – to show the way autonomy and individual competences can be strengthened.
We hope that the EMIN project has initiated a continuing policy focus and debate on income adequacy across the whole life span at both national and EU levels, as older people’s well-being and dignity are at stake.
For more information about the whole EMIN project, please see https://emin-eu.net/
Regarding AGE input to the project, you can contact Maciej.firstname.lastname@example.org