In this edition, we delve into the research conducted by Hannah Adzakpa, a first-generation Law alumna from Germany who defended her thesis entitled Realising the Human Right to a Social Minimum? A Comparative Socio-Legal Study of EU Member States, on 16 June 2023, under the supervision of EUI Law Professor Claire Kilpatrick.
Adzakpa's thesis sheds light on the importance of realising the human right to a social minimum for marginalised and disadvantaged groups within the EU. Her study delves into the challenges faced by marginalised and disadvantaged groups in accessing basic social rights and protection within the context of the European Union, conceptualising the "minimum core doctrine" as a substantive right and making it more attainable for states to uphold their obligations under International Human Rights Law.
To answer her research question, she compared the Concluding Observations of five UN human rights treaty bodies across all EU Member States, from 2009 to 2019, examining the particular challenges faced by three vulnerable groups: persons with disabilities, children, and Roma. One of the main findings is that while Europe is perceived to have well-developed welfare state systems, poverty and social exclusion continue to disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups. The thesis highlights the inadequacy of the European survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC) in satisfying human rights requirements for disaggregated data, even though it remains a valuable tool for cross-national comparisons.
Based on her findings, Adzakpa offers a critical policy recommendation: minimum income protection schemes must be designed to lift disadvantaged and marginalised groups above the poverty line. She emphasises that such schemes should not purposefully keep people in poverty, and implementing such reforms could play a crucial role in reducing poverty and social exclusion within the EU.
The inspiration for Adzakpa's research comes from her involvement in 2017 as an administrative assistant in an Oñati Workshop on 'Specifying and Securing a Social Minimum'. The workshop brought together social scientists and lawyers to discuss the concept and measurement of a 'social minimum'. Driven by the desire to foster dialogue between these two disciplines, she focused on operationalising the right to a 'social minimum' using the AROPE indicator, a main poverty measurement employed by social policy scholars in Europe.
Hannah Adzakpa has recently started working as a Legal Advisor for Caritas Germany's Brussels Office. The organisation has been actively advocating for a legally binding framework directive on minimum income, aligning with one of the key policy recommendations derived from her thesis. As she embarks on this new role, she is eager to implement the findings of her research, further contributing to the advancement of social rights and protection in the EU.