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The end of decent social protection for the poor? The dynamics of low wages, minimum income packages and median household incomes

Bea Cantillon, Diego Collado and Natascha Van Mechelen

No 15/03, ImPRovE Working Papers from Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp

Abstract: Why is it that, in almost three decades and despite growth of income, employment and high levels of social spending, even the most developed welfare states in the world failed to improve minimum income protection for families with children? To what extent the erosion of minimum income protection for the working age population compared to median household incomes has been occasioned by exogenous changes either in median household incomes or in gross low wages? Or, has the erosion been associated with deliberate cutbacks of benefit levels? We focus on a limited set of vulnerable households with children, viz. working-aged couples and single parents who either are jobless or live on one low wage and use survey data (ECHP 1994-2001 and SILC 2005-2008 and 2012) and standard simulations of disposable incomes of typical households in order to address these questions. We find that in all EU’s most developed welfare states minimum income protection for work-poor households with children fall short compared to the poverty threshold (defined as 60% of equivalised median household income). Typically, in the decades before the crisis this shortfall has become increasingly bigger. In most countries with available data this was not associated with deliberate cuts in benefit levels for the poor: in general, net disposable incomes of families on social assistance evolved at a similar pace as the net income packages of corresponding families on low wages. Rather, the erosion of the minimum social floor appears to have been related to sinking gross low wages compared to median household incomes. This points at severe and increasing structural difficulties to reduce poverty.

Keywords: poverty; low wages; social benefits (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I38 J32 J38 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eur and nep-mfd
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