Social Assistance in Europe. Indicators of Minimum Income Security Schemes

Research question/goal: 

Minimum income protection (MIP) systems provide the last safety net in welfare states and form the basis of social citizenship rights. Their institutional structures and quantitative salience among the population vary widely across Europe. So far, these variations are not fully captured and understood due to MIP’s minor role in the field of welfare state research and the lack of comparative data. The project aimed at closing this gap by developing a comprehensive database containing institutional, quantitative and comparative indicators, and by analysing cross-national patterns of MIP. At the end of the project in December 2010, the database includes seventeen EU member states and covers the period 1992-2007. Some data are available for 2008 and 2009 as well. Comparative analysis focused on the role of MIP in different welfare states. The results show huge cross-national variations in MIP benefit levels, recipient rates and expenditure which can be explained by institutional differences in general social protection arrangements and social citizenship rights. In the Nordic countries, MIP systems are firmly institutionalized but small because higher tier social protection systems show high coverage and replacement rates. Great relevance of MIP can be observed for the Anglophone countries, where higher tier social protection is limited but social citizenship rights are strongly generalized. This is also true for Germany, in contrast to the remaining Continental European countries, where the situation differs more strongly by population group. In Southern and Eastern Europe, MIP schemes are rather patchy and incomplete due to weak social citizenship rights. They usually are categorical and sometimes cover only small segments of the population. The results of the project will be available in 2011. A book entitled ‘The last safety net: a handbook of minimum income protection in Europe’ will be published by Policy Press. The database will be made available after the publication of the monograph. Furthermore, the project team collaborated in the EQUALSOC working group on minimum income protection indicators (MIPI). In 2009 and 2010, four MIPI workshops were held in Antwerp, Mannheim and Stockholm. The results are planned to be published in a joint volume.

Fact sheet

2008 to 2010
Data Sources: 
International and national quantitative and qualitative data
Geographic Space: 
EU 27



Bahle, Thomas, Vanessa Hubl and Michaela Pfeifer (2011): The last safety net. A handbook of minimum income protection in Europe. Bristol: Policy Press. more