GENEVA (3 June 2020) – A UN expert today called on Spain to widen coverage and eligibility for its new minimum income scheme, saying the plan shows how States can take advantage of the economic crisis sparked by the global COVID-19 pandemic to address extreme poverty and reduce inequality.
“The scheme will provide much-needed relief to those in need and is a great example of how to develop an inclusive approach to addressing poverty and inequality,” said Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
The national “minimum vital income” scheme is expected to reach more than 850,000 households and benefit 1.6 million people living in extreme poverty. Beneficiary households would receive up to 451.5 to 1,015 euros per month, depending on family size.
“I encourage the Spanish government to continue to expand coverage for this scheme and lower eligibility and bureaucratic requirements,” De Schutter said. “Public spending on social protection at this time is a crucial investment whose impacts will last for years to come.”
“It is essential that the scheme be designed to reach as many people in need as possible”, the Special Rapporteur said.
“Eligibility conditions should not exclude particularly vulnerable individuals such as undocumented or newly documented migrants, newly emancipated youth previously under public tutelage, homeless individuals or those without permanent addresses, or those with unrecognised disabilities who are unable to work.”
De Schutter said bureaucratic hurdles can be a major obstacle for people in poverty who depend on government help for their survival. “It’s important to develop a robust scheme that allows for sufficient flexibility when people who experience extreme poverty cannot readily meet all documentation requirements.”
Despite the economic recovery experienced after the 2008-11 crisis, inequality in Spain has remained well above EU averages and regional minimum income schemes have been largely inadequate.
The former Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, raised the issue of the national minimum income scheme at the end of his visit to Spain. The full report on his visit will be presented at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2020.
Mr. Olivier De Schutter was appointed the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in March 2020 and takes up his functions on 1 May 2020. He is Professor of Law at UCLouvain and at SciencesPo (Paris, France) and has taught human rights at various universities around the world, including the College of Europe, Columbia University and Yale University. An expert on economic and social rights, he has served the UN as a Member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2015-2020) and the Special Rapporteur on the right to food (2008-2014).
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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