A Guaranteed Minimum Income for EuropeÂ’s Elderly. Options and Pitfalls in the Design of a Harmonised Basic Pension Scheme in the European Union
Harmonisation of social security systems is back on the agenda of European policy makers. However, the introduction of a harmonised scheme poses severe challenges. In this article we explore some options and difficulties associated with the implementation of a harmonised minimum income protection scheme for the elderly. As earlier contributions to the literature already outlined the practical and ethical arguments in favour of a European basic pension, we take the proposal of a European basic income for the elderly as our starting point and assume that a basic income is philosophically and ethically justified. In this paper, we try to broaden the scope of the discussion to the various and often technical options, difficulties and pitfalls associated with the practical design and implementation of a harmonised European minimum income scheme. Hence, we first offer an overview of minimum income guarantees for the elderly in Europe. Second, we make a detailed assessment of the issues involved in the design of a basic pension. Third, we shed some light on the European dimension of this proposal to, finally, conclude with a sketch of three possible 'basic pension scenarios'. Our findings confirm that it is one thing to be in favour of a harmonised scheme of minimum income protection, but another to design a realistic and politically feasible proposal.
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