What is Universal Basic Income?

A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. It is a form of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various European countries in three important ways:

  • it is being paid to individuals rather than households;
  • it is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
  • it is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.

The inability to tackle unemployment with conventional means has led in the last decade or so to the idea being taken seriously throughout Europe by a growing number of scholars and organizations. Social policy and economic policy can no longer be conceived separately, and basic income is increasingly viewed as the only viable way of reconciling two of their respective central objectives: poverty relief and full employment. Read More here

A Universal Basic Income (Basic Income Guarantee) is an unconditional cash payment to individuals sufficient to meet basic needs (Universal Basic Income New Zealand, 2003). In its simplest form, Van Der Veen (1998) described Basic Income as a proposal ‘to disburse a tax-free subsistence income to every adult citizen, whether he or she is employed or unemployed, wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, active or idle, and…young or old, with basic incomes [including] children replacing existing child benefits’ (p. 141). Visit Items of Interest for general information on Basic Income, and BIGA’s Historical ItemsSection to see many early Australian and international articles on the Basic Income debate.Browse by Author is an extensive list on this BIGA site, and all publications are printable and accessible. 

As part of a six-chapter dissertation on Universal Income Support, Allan McDonald gives some insight into what a basic income is, and what it can do for people.

Access this link to go to articles of interest relating generally to the Australian economic social scene or socioeconomic issues that have interest for the social justice aspects of Basic Income.

Primary websites for further resources

BIEN: Basic Income Earth  Network. Founded in 1986, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) aims to serve as a link between individuals and groups committed to, or interested in, basic income, i.e. an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement, and to foster informed discussion on this topic throughout Europe. Members of BIEN include academics, students and social policy practitioners as well as people actively engaged in political, social and religious organisations. To actively foster this debate, BIEN publishes a newsletter which provides an up-to-date and comprehensive international overview on relevant events and publications. It organises bi-annual BIEN-congresses where people from more than twenty countries have met to report and discuss basic income and related proposals in connection with a broad spectrum of themes, such as unemployment, European integration, poverty, development, changing patterns of work career and family life, and principles of social justice. BIEN expanded its scope from European to the Earth in 2004. It is an international network that serves as a link between individuals and groups committed to or interested in basic income, and fosters informed discussion of the topic throughout the world.

BIGA: Basic Income Guarantee Australia: Basic Income Guarantee Australia (BIGA) is an Australian University research web-site promoting a universal basic income guarantee as a just path to poverty elimination, economic security and solidarity in Australia and internationally. It is a BIEN affiliate member and is a research project on income security attached to and sponsored by the Social Work and Human Services  discipline area at Queensland University of Technology. BIGA is being developed to continue Basic Income research and the work of Australia’s original Basic Income web page Oasis – Australia, the Organisation Advocating Support Income Studies in Australia, which had been running for the past 13 years.

Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) News by country

 

UBI articles and latest news

 

Access latest Basic Income News here

8 March 2017, BIEN, Stanford Panel: What do people do when they are given cash with no strings attached? The Stanford University Philosophy Department organized the first in a series of events focusing on aspects of unconditional basic income. Facilitated by Juliana Uhuru Bidadanure, Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department of Stanford University, with an affiliation to the McCoy Center for Ethics in Society, the panel consisted of researchers in pilots and experiments of basic income: Guy Standing (Professorial Research Associate at SOAS, University of London; BIEN co-founder), Elizabeth Rhodes (Research Director of Y Combinator’s basic income experiment), and Joe Huston (Regional Director at GiveDirectly). The  Bidadanure opened by setting a definition for unconditional basic income: cash, given individually, unconditionally, and universally, so people can enter an existence free from economic insecurity. She flagged some of the most common concerns around a universal income policy –too many people will withdraw from the work force, or it can be wasteful, taking away from government investments in poverty, education, roads, etc. topic for the panel discussion was “What do people do when they are given cash with no strings attached?” Read More here

April 2016, BIEN: New Zealand: Labour Party considers Universal Basic Income. Following the lead of countries like Finland, Netherlands and Canada, New Zealand is now making its first steps towards a basic income. In a recent Stuff news article, Andrew Little, leader of the Labour Party, the second largest party in the New Zealand’s parliament, says Labour is considering a basic income. This interest is mainly motivated by the rise in structural unemployment, which guarantees profound changes in how New Zealanders work. Automation and precariousness of employment, self-employment and new business models are all affecting the way people work, and these structural changes occupy a central place in present day Labour Party concerns. Indeed, the Party made these concerns – as well as the possibility of a basic income to address them – central to itsLabour’s Future of Work Conference, which took place earlier this week, on the 23rd and 24th of March. The Future of Work Commission has released two background papers on universal basic income, one of which can be found here. This paper, by researchers Max Harries and Sebastiaan Bierema, analyses basic income in general and in the New Zealand context, also mentioning that a pilot programme could be an important first step into a future fully-fledged basic income implementation. What Labour Party leaders in New Zealand will do, it’s hard to say. However, Keith Rankin, a New Zealander author who has written about basic income, highlights some possibilities in a recent article. These possibilities are similar to otherbasic income tax reform ideas presented, based on income tax redistribution. Keith proposes taxing income from both labour (work wages) and land (property) at a rate between 33 and 37%, and redistributing that money to all adult residents. Read More here

7 January 2016, A report written by a government agency dedicated to Digital Affairs for the French Ministry of Labor recommends experimenting with an unconditional basic income to cope with the fundamental transformations of work in the context of the growing digital economy. How do automation and digitalization of activities impact working conditions? This was one of the key questions theNational Digital Council  was tasked to address in a report sponsored by the French Ministry of Labor and Social Dialogue. The Digital Council is a public agency created in 2012 to advise the French government on matters related to the digital world. The report was released earlier this week – see the full report here. It makes an important case for basic income, and calls for a thorough appraisal of “the various proposals and experiments around basic income”. Basic income is part of the twenty main recommendations contained in the report. Minister of Labour is sceptical but does not reject the proposal The Minister of Labor Myriam El Khomri was not so enthusiastic but did not close the door on the idea: “I do not want to dismiss it, but at first sight I am not sure about its cost,” she said. According to the report, the existing social protection model has been pushed to its limits, and the labor market has failed to reward many different forms of activities, and thus provide an income to everyone. Read More here

3 January 2016, IRELAND: Fianna Fáil to promise every citizen €188 every week. “Fianna Fáil will promise every citizen of the country – from the richest to the poorest – a minimum welfare income in excess of current basic welfare rates which average €188 per week.” They plan to establish “an expert group to report within six months on matters like how much the minimum payment would be and what kind of taxation changes would be needed to fund it.” Their main argument for the inclusion of the basic income pledge is that it would be “major protection against poverty in an era where few will be guaranteed work throughout their lives.” Additionally, Fianna Fáil “will also argue that many sections of the population already receive considerable welfare payments, such as pensions or child benefit, which would be factored into the minimum income – making the final cost not vastly greater than current welfare spending.
” Basic income is knocking on the door in Ireland too. Fianna Fáil, an Irish republican party, will pledge to introduce a basic income in their new election manifesto, as reported by John Downing in the Irish IndependentRead More here

24 December 2016, CANADA: Kingston is first municipality to endorse basic income. According to the approved text, the rationale for a BIG is the growing income insecurity and inequality, and the inadequacy of the current welfare system to address these issues. The motion states that: “A basic income guarantee would reduce income insufficiency, insecurity, and inequality and ensure everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live in dignity regardless of work status.” One of the biggest supporters of the outcome was former Kingston-area senator Hugh Segal. He has been an advocate for some form of basic income guarantee for decades, and took great pride in this result. Speaking to the local dailyKingston Whig-Standard, he stated that the “Council has shown tremendous courage and real leadership.” He went on to say that “it’s fiscally responsible and it responds to reality in terms of need… Give the money to people because they know where to spend it.” Kingston City Council in Ontario province is the first Canadian municipality to endorse a basic income guarantee (BIG). In a vote held on Tuesday, December 15, the policy idea was unanimously endorsed with a 13-0 outcome in favour. The successful motion calls for a “national discussion of a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians”. It also asks for provincial and federal governments to investigate and develop the measure at the national level. The motion will be sent to all municipalities in Ontario with a request to endorse the initiative. Read More here

22 August 2015, Vito Laterza, Greece, Government to roll out a Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme. The new bailout agreement between Greece and international creditors includes plans for a national roll-out of a Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI).[i] The GMI is not an unconditional basic income for all citizens, but would be the first universal means-tested grant that covers all Greeks below a certain level of income and asset ownership, regardless of employment status, job contract type, professional category, gender or age. In the latest round of bailout negotiations, Greek Prime Minister Tsipras reportedly opposed the introduction of the GMI. The final memorandum approved by the Greek parliament last week, however, provides for a national roll-out of the GMI by end of 2016. The government needs to find 0.5% of GDP to finance the national GMI scheme. A draft report from the World Bank published in January this year, provides a core scenario where 1.2 million people would be covered by the GMI – this is constructed on the basic qualifying criteria and payment amounts of a GMI pilot started last year. The measure would cost €980 million or 0.54% of GDP. The general wording of the bailout agreement remains vague and the GMI has not yet been approved by parliament. The specifics of implementation will only be known in the next months. Read More here

12 August 2015, Huffington Post, Minimum Wages vs. Universal Basic Income. I think that wherever possible, we should look to permanently eliminate underlying causes instead of treating symptoms without end. When it comes to minimum wage laws, we’re perpetually treating a symptom and not a cause. The problem we wish to solve is that employees aren’t getting paid enough to work. So the government then has to step in and say, “Hey, employers, you can’t pay less than this amount, and employees, you can’t accept less than this amount.” Well, why do we need to do this? Why aren’t people getting paid enough? What’s the core issue? I think people aren’t getting paid enough because they can’t really ask for more out of fear of getting nothing at all. They have no individual bargaining power. All negotiating power is in the hands of those offering the jobs and not those looking for them. Outside of unions, we can’t say “No” to the terms of employment offered by employers. As long as our primary concern is that of paying for our basic needs like food and rent, all we can really say is “Yes”. If an employer can pay less, they will. They will even pay nothing wherever possible. Just look at unpaid internships. And because people prefer to eat and live indoors, and anything is better than nothing, people accept wages that are too low or even zero (in combination with work experience) because it’s all better than the alternative – nothing. Read More here

8 July 2015, Stanislas Jourdan News, 30 Dutch Municipalities show Interest in experimenting with Basic Income. The City of Utrecht, the fourth most populated City of the Netherlands, has attracted a lot of attention recently – including at an international level – with the early announcement of their launch of a pilot project later this year. Although the program is far from being ready and its specifics are far less radical than they sound, the good news is: Utrecht might just be the tip of the iceberg of a massive wave of local experiments in the Netherlands. Currently there are 30 Dutch municipalities interested in running basic income pilot projects. Among them, the cities of Utrecht, Tilburg, Wageningen and Groningen are the most advanced. Read More here

29 June 2015, Stanislas Jourdan internview, Finland, basic income, and the government’s schizophrenia. The Basic income community worldwide is getting excited about the Finnish government’s commitment to launch a basic income experiment. Are you enthusiastic too? We have certainly reached a historical point. For the first time, in the general elections of April 2015, the majority of the MP’s in the Finnish Parliament have expressed their support, ranging from mild to strong, for basic income. This data derives from the answers given by candidates during the last election. The majority of the Finnish public has also expressed its support for the idea. The new centre-right government coalition in Finland committed to run a basic income pilot project. It is however unlikely that a pure unconditional basic income has any chance to be experimented, says BIEN Finland‘s chairman Otto Lehto in this interview. Read More here

1 May 2015, Josh Martin News, United Kingdom, Green Party of England and Wales Includes Basic Income in Election Manifesto and Releases Costing Scheme. However, the Green Party admits that implementing a basic income in five years may be impractical and thus plans to conduct consultations and research on the basic income idea during a first parliament with the aim of implementation in a second parliament. The Green Party released a basic income costing scheme alongside the manifesto, seeking to answer the major questions about funding a basic income in the UK. The Green Party of England and Wales received plenty of press over the past few months about their support of a basic income. While questions arose about whether they would keep basic income in their manifesto, they ultimately decided to keep it in their plans. Preparing for the general election on May 7th, the Green Party released their election manifestoand included a commitment to a basic income. Under the social security section of the manifesto, basic income is the first policy mentioned as the long-term plan of the Green Party, and it is included on the one-page executive summary at the front of the manifesto. Read More here

16 March 2015, Stanislas Jourdan News, Spain, Popular Initiative for Basic Income Ends with 185,000 Signatures. For the past year, a grassroots movement in Spain has been very actively campaigning for the introduction of a basic income by means of a national popular legislative initiative (ILP). Thanks to the efforts of a growing number of basic income supporters, approximately 185,000 signatures were collected – less than the threshold of 500,000 signatures required for the initiative to be examined by the national parliament. The exact number of signatures still have to be counted by national authorities after a validation check.Although the number of signatures collected is considered lower than hoped – organisers said the campaign contributed significantly to spreading the idea of basic income across Spain.  Read More here