A Spanish bishop has taken down sceptics of the minimum living income, insisting the measure is necessary to combat poverty.
– Minimum income schemes rescue people from “severe poverty”
Auxiliary Bishop of Bilbao Joseba Segura participated June 2 in an online forum organised by the Paul VI Foundation in Madrid on the future after COVID-19 and with the theme “A new economic order?”.
In that panel, Segura referred to the new minimum living income approved by the Spanish government May 29, which will guarantee a monthly income of between €461 and €1,015 for at least 850,000 Spanish households and which aims to reduce extreme poverty in the country by 80%.
The new social and economic measure has been the target of strong criticism from conservative political parties and powerful economic actors in Spain, but the bishop recalled that in places where minimum living incomes and like initiatives have already been implemented – such as in Segura’s very own region of the Spanish Basque Country – there’s now “not so much debate” over their effectiveness.
“Some think [minimum living incomes] can weaken people’s desire to find a job, but if you look at what has happened in the Basque Country with the minimum income, this money does not really disincentivise work”, Segura affirmed.
In 2016, some 59,976 households and some 124,493 people benefitted from the Basque minimum income scheme, which cost the regional government €428 million that year but which reduced poverty by half.
Not only that, but as Segura pointed out “a quarter of the people who receive [the Basque minimum income are pensioners, and their pensions are not enough to live with dignity”.
The bishop went on to explain that another 20% of recipients of the Basque minimum income are working poor, whose work “is so precarious, it does not allow them to support their family unit”.
Another 12% of recipients are people with special needs, particularly the marginalised and the chronically ill, Segura explained, also recalling that single-parent families also benefit from the measure, “95% of them women with children”.
“The minimum living income does not disrupt the labour market, but instead reaches people who are in serious danger of falling into severe poverty”, the bishop stressed.
– Santiago auxiliary bishop: policy “in line with the Church’s Social Doctrine”
Along with Segura, other Spanish Church actors who have hailed the new minimum living income have included Caritas, which welcomed the new scheme as “a decisive step in the fight against severe poverty which dignifies us as a country by strengthening our systems of social guarantees for the excluded”.
The Workers’ Fraternity of Catholic Action (HOAC) also praised the new policy and called on the government to pay out the money without further delay, since “the situation of absolute vulnerability in which thousands and thousands of families find themselves cannot wait”.
Another bishop who supported the new minimum living income, meanwhile, was Santiago auxiliary Jesús Fernández, who didn’t hesitate to affirm that the policy is in line “with the Social Doctrine of the Church, in the sense in which everything has been created for all people”.
The minimum living income “also invokes the common good and we all must get involved in it, since it is something that looks out for the dignity of all”. Fernández added.
Earlier in May, the Basque bishops had also come out in favour of the minimum living income in a joint statement, insisting that, especially in the time of the coronavirus, “as long as it is not possible to obtain sufficient income for a dignified life, we must support the unemployed, vulnerable people and families at risk of exclusion through mechanisms that help them to cope”.
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