Benefit systems to secure a livelihood in the sense of a minimum subsistence have been widespread in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Initially it was a question of means-tested cash benefits for people with an income below a fixed limit according to the English model of Social Assistance of 1948. In the following decades the benefit systems changed mainly through the linking of cash benefits with other measures, in particular measures to help employment and social integration. With the latest generation of livelihood systems, the focus is now increasingly on active participation obligations of beneficiaries with a view to rapid labour market integration. But what does this "workfare paradigm" mean in times of an increasing prevalence of precarious, non-viable working conditions and a growing number of working poor? When digital change shrinks job opportunities or globalisation strategies lead to relocation abroad? When the demand for labour simply does not exist because the limits of growth have been reached for ecological reasons? In many countries, there are considerable discrepancies between the programme of labour market activation as a prerequisite for the receipt of existence-securing benefits (some of which are subject to considerable sanctions) and the concrete reality of the labour market.
Against this background, the legal framework for securing a livelihood raises fundamental questions related to the associated view of man, the justification for benefits in integrated systems, but also with regard to its suitability for promoting social cohesion.