Project

EU Platform on Reference Budgets

Goal: With this project we aim to support theoretical, methodological and applied research on reference budgets and bring experts and stakeholder organisations together throughout Europe.

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Project log

Tim Goedemé
added a research item
The methodology currently used to measure poverty in the European Union faces some important limitations. Capturing key aspects of poverty is done using a dashboard of indicators, which often tell conflicting stories. We propose a new income-based measure of poverty for Europe that captures in a consistent way in a single indicator the level of relative poverty, the intensity of poverty, poverty with a threshold anchored in time and a pan-European perspective on poverty. To do so, we work with a recently developed poverty index, the extended headcount ratio (EHC) and derive the relevant poverty lines to apply the index to poverty in Europe. We show empirically that our measure consistently captures the aspects typically monitored using a variety of indicators and yields rankings that seem more aligned with intuitions than those obtained by these individual indicators. According to our measure, Eastern Europe has a much higher level of poverty than Southern Europe, which, in turn, has a considerably higher level of poverty than North-Western Europe. In North-Western Europe, the evolution of our measure over time correlates most strongly with the at-risk-of-poverty rate, while in Southern and Eastern Europe, it correlates most strongly with at-risk-of-poverty with the threshold anchored in time.
Tim Goedemé
added an update
In this paper, Lauri compares the outcomes of two different approaches to generating reference budgets in Finland. Highly recommended!
All the best, Tim
 
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
With this pilot study we add new information on the accessibility of (primary and secondary) compulsory education in Europe, a topic that stands out for lacking comparable accessibility indicators. We first assess data requirements for better documenting and understanding school-related costs and provide an overview of available comparative data. Next, we develop a classification of types of school-related costs, making a distinction between free, compulsory, hardly avoidable and optional school-related expenses and document how these vary between 10 European countries. Furthermore, for the same countries we assess what variables determine how school-related costs vary within countries, and explore which policies are in place to alleviate school-related expenses for low-income families. Finally, we identify good practices for monitoring and documenting school-related costs and develop recommendations about how school-related costs could be measured better in a more harmonized way.
Irene Cussó-Parcerisas
added a research item
In Spain, the percentage of population living in poverty or social exclusion has consistently increased since 2007. This trend makes it unlikely to reach the Spanish National Europe 2020 target, which is to reduce in 1.400.000 the people at risk of poverty or exclusion. At the same time, the Spanish Minimum Income Protection Schemes are complex, fragmented and inefficient. In the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy, reference budgets are regarded as a tool to improve poverty measurement and assess income adequacy. This paper describes the development of the Spanish Reference Budgets: priced baskets containing the minimum goods and services necessary for well-described types of families to have an adequate social participation. The study here presented combines various sources of information: national guidelines, expert opinion, scientific literature, survey data on cultural habits and focus group discussions using a cross-country comparable approach. Based on a needs-based perspective, we have estimated a minimum budget threshold that ranges from 427€ to 1569€/month depending on the type of family.Without considering housing and car costs, the healthy food budget is the one that represents a higher share of the total budget in all family types. The weight of the other baskets depends on the household composition, mainly on the presence of children. The aim of our approach is to assess family and children needs, as well as to orient policies designed to guarantee social rights and reduce children poverty and social exclusion.
Elena Carrillo-Alvarez
added a research item
Reference budgets (RB) are illustrative priced baskets containing the minimum goods and services necessary for well-described types of families to have adequate social participation. Cross-country comparable food RB with the minimum cost were previously developed in 26 EU countries. However, sustainability was not considered. The aim of this paper is to present the development of healthy and sustainable food baskets for Spanish adults. This work follows the steps proposed in previous European projects to build RB: (1) revision of guidelines on healthy and sustainable eating and expert consultations, (2) translation into a concrete list of foods, (3) pricing. The results indicate that a sustainable diet can be cheaper than current recommendations when only the dietary content is considered, representing monthly savings of about EUR 7.27. This is mainly explained by the shift towards more plant-based proteins. Adding constraints on origin, packaging and seasonality increases the overall cost of the food basket by EUR 12.22/month compared with current recommendations. The Spanish Sustainable Food Reference Budget illustrates the cost of applying different criteria to improve dietary sustainability in the Spanish context, and can be useful to support the ecological transition, since providing different levels of adherence to a sustainable dietary pattern can ease its access across socioeconomic groups
Irene Cussó-Parcerisas
added a research item
Introducción Los presupuestos de referencia ilustran cestas de bienes y ser-vicios que se consideran indispensables para garantizar una participación social plena y satisfactoria. En los últimos años, mediante una colaboración internacional, se ha definido el cos-te mínimo necesario para seguir una alimentación saludable y equilibrada en 26 países de la Unión Europea 1. No obstante, estos costes no tuvieron en cuenta la sostenibilidad medioam-biental. Siguiendo las alegaciones de las principales organiza-ciones internacionales 2 , el consumo de alimentos representa uno de los principales ejes que pueden contribuir a revertir la emergencia climática, así como la malnutrición en todas sus for-mas 3. Teniendo en cuenta que una correcta alimentación está condicionada por determinantes socioeconómicos como el pre-cio 4,5 , resulta indispensable estudiar el coste una alimentación sostenible con el medioambiente para garantizar el acceso a toda la población para minimizar las desigualdades ya existen-tes en nuestro entorno y finalmente alcanzar los objetivos inter-nacionales. Objetivos: el presente artículo pretende exponer la metodolo-gía y determinación de una cesta de la alimentación sostenible y saludable desde diferentes niveles de adhesión para adultos en España.
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
The methodology currently used to measure poverty in the European Union faces some important limitations. Importantly, capturing the major aspects of poverty is done using a dashboard of indicators, which often tell conflicting stories. We propose a new income-based measure of poverty for Europe that captures in a consistent way the level of relative poverty, the intensity of poverty, poverty with a threshold anchored in time and a pan-European perspective of poverty in a single indicator. To do so, we work with a recently developed poverty index, the Extended Headcount ratio (EHC), and derive the relevant poverty lines to apply the index to poverty in Europe. We show empirically that our measure consistently captures the aspects typically monitored using a variety of indicators, and yield rankings that seem more aligned with intuitions than those obtained by these individual indicators. According to our measure, Eastern Europe is much poorer than Southern Europe, which, in turn, is much poorer than North-Western Europe. The evolution of our measure over time correlates most strongly with the at-risk-of-poverty rate in North-Western Europe and correlates most strongly with at-risk-of-poverty with the threshold anchored in time in Southern and Eastern Europe.
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
In Europe, food insecurity is still a serious concern for individual and public health. Although progress has been made in reducing undernourishment, other types of malnutrition such as obesity and overweight are on the rise. Policies that aim at improving healthy eating and addressing food insecurity tend to focus on food aid, nutritional education and financial incentives. These policies are generally not targeted at the problem of insufficient income as a key barrier to access a healthy diet. In this paper, we present new evidence which shows that insufficient household income and inadequate minimum income policies constitute a remaining concern for accessing a healthy diet. We make use of estimates of the minimum cost of a healthy diet in 24 European countries, in accordance with national food-based dietary guidelines. We use these unique data to (1) estimate the proportion of people living in (sub)urban areas with insufficient income to access a healthy diet, before and after housing costs, based on representative income survey data (EU-SILC), and, (2) compare the cost of a healthy diet with the level of minimum income schemes for specific household types using microsimulation techniques. We find that in 16 out of 24 countries at least 10% of the population in (sub)urban areas risks to be confronted with income-related food insecurity. Our findings show that policies directed at tackling food insecurity should be embedded in broader economic and social policies that promote an adequate income for all, and limit the cost of other essential goods and services.
Tim Goedemé
added an update
We have now published the reference budgets computed in the ImPRovE and EU pilot project online, aggregated by 'basket' of goods and services.
Background on the projects and related papers can be found on the website of the EU Platform on Reference Budgets: https://www.referencebudgets.eu/copy-of-national-experiences
 
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
In Europe, food insecurity is still a serious concern for individual and public health. Although progress has been made in reducing undernourishment, other types of malnutrition such as obesity are on the rise. Policies that aim at improving healthy eating and addressing food insecurity tend to focus on public education, and financial incentives, such as a sugar tax. These policies start from the assumption that people have sufficient income to eat healthily. In contrast, food assistance through food banks is becoming more and more popular across European countries, suggesting that a significant share of the population experiences financial constraints to access a (healthy) diet. Unfortunately, indicators of food insecurity rarely focus directly on the lack of sufficient income as a driver of food insecurity and unhealthy eating. Therefore, in this paper, we try to assess the role of adequate incomes and minimum income policies in having access to a healthy diet. We make use of estimates of the minimum cost of a healthy diet in 24 European countries, in accordance with national food-based dietary guidelines. Food prices were collected in the capital city of each country during the Spring of 2015. We use these unique data to (1) estimate the proportion of people living in urban areas with insufficient income to access a healthy diet, before and after housing costs, based on representative income survey data (EU-SILC), and, (2) compare the cost of a healthy diet with the level of minimum income schemes for specific household types using microsimulation techniques. We find that in 16 out of 24 countries at least 10% of the population in (sub)urban areas is confronted with income-related food insecurity. Especially in Eastern and Southern Europe a large share of the (sub)urban population is lacking the economic resources needed to have access to a healthy diet. Our findings show that policies directed at tackling food insecurity should be embedded in a broader set of economic and social policies that facilitate the structural realisation of an adequate income.
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
Background: The purpose of this article is to report on a comparative analysis of the official food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) that were applicable in 2015 in 25 EU Member States. We assess FBDG in relation to the main guidelines established by the FAO/WHO, the EURODIET project and the EFSA, with a particular focus on identifying strengths and limitations of current FBDG in Europe towards addressing diet-related health inequalities. Methods: This is a review research, in which a mixed-methods sequenced procedure was utilized. In each EU country key informants, including sociologists, economists, dietitians and nutritionists were asked to provide data regarding: (i) current dietary guidelines and national health priorities, (ii) model of health promotion currently available, (iii) results of the latest food consumption survey. All documents were reviewed by the coordinating team. Full data were analysed by two nutritionists, using a tabulated sheet to organize and compare the results. Results: While all countries have national FBDG, the level of detail and quality varies substantially with regard to: time of last update; availability of recommendations for specific target groups; specification of frequency and portion size; the graphical representation; recommended amounts and limits of foods consumed; and recommendations regarding physical activity. Conclusions: European countries have great opportunities to improve FBDG to better serve Public Health policy through a more consistent foundation of how these guidelines are developed, the inclusion of different population subgroups as a target for recommendations and the implementation of monitoring systems.
Irene Cussó-Parcerisas
added a research item
In this article we present Reference Budgets, which are baskets of goods and services that represent the minimum resources necessary for people to reach an adequate social participation, which means that people would have the essentials to develop their various pertinent social positions and roles. The indicator has been constructed for different types of families in densely populated areas of Catalonia, taking Barcelona as a reference city. Different sources of information have been used, based on a common theoretical and methodological framework recently proposed for six European cities to configure the content of the baskets: official guides, expert consultations, survey data and focus group discussions. Apart from housing, healthy eating is the basket that carries the most weight in relation to the total budget. This indicator provides information to contextualise the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, and can also be used to guide social inclusion policies.
Tim Goedemé
added an update
This week, the European Economic and Social Committee will discuss a proposal for supporting a minimum income directive which should ensure that in all EU member states citizens are guaranteed an access to a decent minimum income.
At several places, the proposed text refers to the need for using reference budgets as a method for estimating the minimum necessary resources for a decent living standard.
More information is available at:
 
Tim Goedemé
added 2 research items
Across Europe, despite high social spending and work-related welfare reforms, poverty remains a largely intractable problem for policymakers and the persistent reality for citizens. In Decent Incomes for All, the authors shed new light on recent poverty trends in the European Union and the corresponding responses by European welfare states. They analyze the effect of social and fiscal policies before, during, and after the recent economic crisis and study the impact of alternative policy packages on poverty and inequality. The book also explores how social investment and local initiatives of social innovation can contribute to tackling poverty, while recognizing that there are indeed structural constraints on the increase of the social floor and difficult trade-offs involved in reconciling work and poverty reduction. Differences across countries are, however, stark, which suggests that there are lessons to be learned and policy changes to be applied, if the political will exists.
This chapter makes use of the first effort to construct cross-country comparable reference budgets in Europe to show what the large cross-national differences in living standards imply in practice for the adequacy of incomes at the level of the at-risk-of-poverty threshold. The budgets show that, in the poorest EU Member States, even adequate food and housing are barely affordable at the level of the threshold, whereas a decent living standard is much more in reach for those living on the threshold in the richer EU Member States. The reference budgets also suggest that the poverty risk of some groups (for instance, children) is underestimated relative to that of other age groups, while the poverty risk of homeowners is probably relatively overestimated.
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
The aim of this article is to present the development of cross-country comparable food reference budgets in 26 European countries, and to discuss their usefulness as an addition to food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) for tackling food insecurity in low-income groups. Reference budgets are illustrative priced baskets containing the minimum goods and services necessary for well-described types of families to have an adequate social participation. This study was conducted starting from national FBDG, which were translated into monthly food baskets. Next, these baskets were validated in terms of their acceptability and feasibility through focus group discussions, and finally they were priced. Along the paper, we show how that food reference budgets hold interesting contributions to the promotion of healthy eating and prevention of food insecurity in low-income contexts in at least four ways: (1) they show how a healthy diet can be achieved with limited economic resources, (2) they bring closer to the citizen a detailed example of how to put FBDG recommendations into practice, (3) they ensure that food security is achieved in an integral way, by comprising the biological but also psychological and social functions of food, and (4) providing routes for further (comparative) research into food insecurity.
Tim Goedemé
added an update
Recently a new paper has been published on the cost and affordability of a healthy diet in New Zealand. Researchers developd to different food baskets, one building on actual consumption patterns, and the other focused on a healthy diet.
The article is available here:
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
[abstract by authors:] This report presents a review of the Norwegian reference budget in light of similar European initiatives. The key aims of this reference budget review is to ensure that the Norwegian budget is valid and reliable, and that the method used is suitable to answer the questions the budget is supposed to answer. In the review, we ask: Which needs and wants is the Norwegian reference budget supposed to fill? Is there a need to revise the reference budget, and if so, how should this be done?
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
When combining reference budgets with tax-benefit hypothetical household simulations, one can develop interesting policy indicators. In this paper the authors explore this approach to construct a 'child cost compensation indicator'. This indicator shows to what extent countries compensate for the out-of-pocket cost of raising a child through family benefits, tax expenditures or reducing the out-of-pocket costs of esssential goods and services.
You can download the paper here:
 
Tim Goedemé
added a research item
In order to alleviate child poverty, contemporary European welfare states have shifted their focus increasingly towards child-centred investment strategies. However, studies assessing the generosity of welfare states to families with children focus mainly on the role of cash benefit packages, or on government expenditure, disregarding the actual costs families face when accessing essential goods and services. This paper takes a hypothetical household approach to family policy evaluations and aims at contributing to existing studies by: (1) empirically assessing the needs and costs of children across welfare states by making use of cross-nationally comparable reference budgets, while taking into account publicly-provided or subsidized services, (2) simulating the cash benefits that households with children receive through the tax-benefit system, by making use of the new Hypothetical Household Tool (HHoT), and, (3) combining both types of information in order to compare the essential out-of-pocket costs of children between 6 and 18 years old with the simulated cash benefit packages. The paper focuses on six European welfare states: Belgium, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Spain. We propose a new indicator that can be used to assess welfare state generosity to families with children: the child cost compensation indicator. By making use of this indicator, we show that, even though with important cross-national variation, the out-of-pocket cost of children is generally compensated to a small extent through cash policies. Although support for families is higher at the lower end of the income distribution, for households living on a low gross wage, the income of a family with children is less adequate compared to a similar childless family, and is in many cases insufficient to participate adequately in society.
Tim Goedemé
added 4 research items
The enlargement of the EU has stirred discussion about the relevance of the traditional EU poverty indicator. This indicator measures poverty in relative and national terms. As a result, the poor in the least wealthy EU member states have very different living conditions from those in more wealthy member states. Consequently, some authors have argued for alternative or additional poverty measures. One line of thought is that the reference groups people use for evaluating their living standard are significantly Europeanised and that a Europeanised poverty measure should incorporate this evolution. With this article, we aim to embed this debate into a proper conceptual framework. Therefore, we first review the literature on poverty definitions, and argue that despite diverging conceptualisations, scholars assume that somehow poverty is a relative concept. Second, we discuss the relevance of reference group theory for conceiving this relativity. We argue that a distinction must be made between privately-oriented reference groups and publicly-oriented reference groups. Only the latter offer a norm to define the minimum acceptable standard of living in society. Hence, poverty researchers should investigate publicly-oriented reference groups. Nevertheless, the discussion has largely focused on privately-oriented reference groups. We conclude that EU-wide research on budget standards in combination with survey-based approaches offer a promising way forward to construct poverty lines driven by publicly-oriented reference groups.
Inleiding Referentiebudgetten voor maatschappelijke participatie zijn korven van goederen en diensten, met bijhorend prijskaartje, die noodzakelijk worden geacht om menswaar-dig te leven, dat wil zeggen te kunnen participeren aan de gangbare leefpatronen in een samenleving. De methode is al oud (Deeming, 2010; Storms, Goedemé & Van den Bosch, 2011), en referentiebudgetten bestaan al voor veel landen binnen en bui-ten Europa (Fisher, 2007). Tot nu toe is aan de internationale vergelijkbaarheid van deze budgetten echter geen aandacht besteed. Vertrekkende vanuit de ervaring die we opdeden bij het opstellen van de Belgische referentiebudgetten, schetsen wij in dit hoofdstuk een referentiekader en een benadering die zo'n vergelijking mogelijk kan maken. In eerste instantie beschrijven we hoe men vandaag de dag in Europa naar armoede en armoedebestrijding kijkt en hoe het ontwikkelen van cross-nationale referentiebudget-ten hierin een prominente plaats kan innemen. Vervolgens lichten we toe hoe we in Bel-gië tewerk zijn gegaan bij het opstellen van referentiebudgetten voor maatschappelijke participatie en tot welke resultaten dit heeft geleid. Ten slotte werken we toe naar een theoretisch kader en methode om voor de hele Europese Unie op een consistente wijze referentiebudgetten te berekenen die als armoedelijn kunnen worden gebruikt.
Tim Goedemé
added an update
Last week we came together with researchers from 13 countries to discuss the setup of the EU Platform on Reference Budgets. We agreed on the following description and purpose of the platform:
The EU Platform on reference budgets is a European network of researchers and institutions involved in the development of reference budgets. The main goals of the Platform are:
a. to support the development of national and cross-nationally comparable reference budgets that are in accordance with the highest academic standards in all EU member states;
b. to collaborate on improving the theoretical, methodological and infrastructural foundations and applications of reference budgets;
c. to organize a dialogue with societal stakeholders on the requirements and uses of reference budgets and to exchange knowledge and experiences with regard to academic, policy and practical applications of reference budgets;
d. to function as a point of reference and gateway to expertise on reference budgets in the EU;
e. to be an ambassador for advancing research into and the use of reference budgets throughout Europe, both by the research community and societal stakeholders, with a view to contributing to the realisation of a decent living standard for all.
 
Tim Goedemé
added a project goal
With this project we aim to support theoretical, methodological and applied research on reference budgets and bring experts and stakeholder organisations together throughout Europe.
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
Today and tomorrow (22-23 February 2018) we are sitting together with researchers from 13 European countries to set up an EU Platform on Reference budgets. More news will follow soon.
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
We have added for the first time results of the Luxembourg reference budgets to those of the ImPRovE project. The budgets were developed by Anne Franziskus from STATEC using the same method as the one used in ImPRovE. The results have been integrated into the working paper published earlier which will be published as a book chapter in Cantillon, Goedemé and Hills (forthcoming) Decent incomes for the poor? Improving policies in Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The results can be previewed in the presentation attached to this message.
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
We are now looking for a new senior researcher who coordinate the EU Reference Budgets Network. (See description of vacancy attached)
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
The Cypriot team recently published two articles on the food basket developed in the context of the EU Pilot Project:
Chrysostomou, S., & Andreou, S. (2017). Do low-income Cypriots experience food stress? The cost of a healthy food basket relative to guaranteed minimum income in Nicosia, Cyprus. Nutrition & Dietetics, 74(2), 167-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1747-0080.12322.
Chrysostomou, S., Andreou, S. N., & Polycarpou, A. (2017). Developing a food basket for fulfilling physical and non-physical needs in Cyprus. Is it affordable? European Journal of Public Health, 27(3), 553-558. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckx009.
 
Tim Goedemé
added an update
Project goal
With this project we aim to support theoretical, methodological and applied research on reference budgets and bring experts and stakeholder organisations together throughout Europe.
Background and motivation
With this project we aim to support theoretical, methodological and applied research on reference budgets and bring experts and stakeholder organisations together throughout Europe.
 
Tim Goedemé
added 7 research items
Reference budgets could play an important role in the work of measuring poverty and assessing income adequacy, and in the process of monitoring social inclusion policies in the European Union. As the reference budgets that are already constructed in some European countries are all developed rather independently from each other, they are not directly comparable due to substantial differences in objectives and methods used. In this paper we sketch how to move forward towards the construction of cross-country comparable reference budgets. A common theoretical framework, a common methodology and commonly agreed criteria are essential building blocks. We discuss the choices we have made in order to start developing cross-nationally comparable reference budgets for Belgium, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy and Spain in the project ImPRovE1, a project financed by the European Commission.
This paper presents an overview of the RBs that have been constructed in EU Member States during the past 40 years or which are being constructed at the moment. It summarises the relevant literature and presents the results of a survey on reference budgets among national experts in the 28 EU Member States. It also discusses the advantages and disadvantages of RBs. Finally, it proposes a number of criteria to which valid and useful RBs should conform. The paper, accordingly, prepares the way for later work in the project, in particular for a second deliverable on a common methodology, as well as for the construction of full, cross-nationally comparable reference budgets based on this common methodology for a selected number of Member States and of a food basket for all 28 Member States.
Pilot project, developing a common methodology on reference budgets in Europe Proposal for a method for comparable reference budgets in Europe : final report This is the final report of the ‘Pilot project on developing a common methodology on reference budgets in Europe’, financed by the European Commission. Reference budgets are illustrative priced baskets of goods and services, that represent a certain living standard. In this project, the targeted living standard corresponded to the minimum financial resources required for adequate social participation. The project had three main objectives. The first was to establish a reference budgets network composed of key experts and representative stakeholders, at national and EU level, to share experiences and expertise on reference budgets. The second objective was to develop a theoretical framework and a common methodology for developing cross-nationally comparable reference budgets in European Member States. The third goal of the project was to develop comparable food baskets for the capital city of a maximum number of Member States and as many as possible other baskets for the capital city of a selection of countries. In the end, a food basket has been developed for 26 EU Member States, and a basket for health care, personal care and housing for eight EU Member States • Add to favourites • Recommend this publication • Print publication details Corporate author(s): European Commission, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Private author(s): Bérénice Storms, Tim Goedemé, Karel van den Bosch see more Themes: Regional policy and regional economies Target audience: Specialised/Technical Key words: European social policy, aid policy, 438855, public expenditure, draft EC budget, qualitative analysis, EU Member State