The main reason for the change from monetary social assistance to the minimum income benefit in 2010/11 was to combat poverty but also to facilitate access to the benefit. A key performance criterion of social protection systems is that benefits reach their target groups. Means-tested programmes, however, tend to be characterised by a certain extent of access problems. Empirical evidence for several EU-countries suggests that non-take-up of means-tested benefits is a widespread problem. Monetary social assistance and its successor minimum income benefit are the most relevant benefits in terms of non-take-up in Austria. Our previous research showed this for monetary social assistance in 2003. The reform towards the minimum income benefit aimed at tackling the non-take-up issue through changing the system and delivery and through simplifying the application procedure. Thus, with our research we contributed to an improved understanding of the effects of social reforms and ultimately to a better policy design in Austria.
As a variety of research shows that non-take-up analyses have to deal with measurement errors that might distort the empirical results, we made use of several methods to quantify potential measurement errors. Given that the underlying EU-SILC micro-data for Austria has recently been changed from survey to register data for almost all income sources, this offered the chance to significantly reduce the measurement error related to reported incomes. By comparing results based on register and survey data, the study contributed to a better assessment of the measurement error and as such to a better estimation and understanding of the non-take-up of benefits of last resort.
This project measured and analysed the target efficiency of the minimum income benefit and its predecessor benefit called monetary social assistance, the benefits of last resort in Austria. It provided an up-to-date estimate of the size and determinants of non-take-up of minimum income benefit for the year 2015 as well as of monetary social assistance for the year 2009 and compared it to the situation back in 2003.
Both, the replacement of monetary social assistance by the minimum income benefit as well as the change in the EU-SILC from survey to register data offered an interesting and unique combination to investigate the access to benefits. In this context, the envisaged study:
In the project, the following methods were used:
The reform led to a significant decrease of non-take-up of the benefit of last resort in Austria. In 2009 53% of eligible households did not take up the benefit while in 2015 only 30% abstained. In terms of expenditure non-take-up dropped from 51% to 30%.
Our estimates indicate that pecuniary determinants as a higher degree of need and lower applications costs measured by unemployment, low education and renting one’s home lead to lower non-take-up rates. Pyschological costs sucha as the size of municipality and lone-parenthood are also important predictors of taking up the benefit.