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Basic income

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A short film that explains UBI

A universal basic income (UBI) or simply basic income is a social program in which all citizens of a population regularly receive a sum of money from the government.[1] A pure or unconditional basic income has no means test, much like Social Security in the United States. Basic income can be implemented nationally, regionally or locally. The idea gained attention in recent years because people fear that technology will make many jobs obsolete in the future.

The idea has never been put in place by any country yet, but there have been some experimental trials.

In a 2016 survey, 64% of Europeans voted for an UBI.[2]

An UBI is an income for everyone. There would be neither a social administrative means test nor a requirement of willingness to work. On the other hand, tax- and contribution-financed social benefits like unemployment benefit, social assistance or child benefit would no longer apply.

The incomes would be:

  • Unconditional: The sum of an UBI could vary with age, but with no other conditions. Everyone of the same age would receive the same income. Regardless of their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.
  • Automatic: The basic income of a person would be automatically paid weekly or monthly into a bank account or similar.
  • Non-withdrawable: Basic incomes would not be means-tested. Their basic income will not change. Also when earnings increase or decrease.
  • Individual: Basic incomes would be paid on an individual basis. Not on the basis of a couple or household.
  • A right: Every legal resident would receive a basic income, subject to a minimum period of legal residency and continuing residency and continuing residency for most of the year.

The Roman emperor Trajan gave 650 denarii to all common Roman citizens who applied.[3]

In the 1516 book Utopia, Sir Thomas More describes a society in which every person receives a guaranteed income.[4]

In 1984, the Basic Income Research Group began researching on basic income.[5]

In the 21st century, the idea gained attention because many people fear that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will make many jobs obsolete in the near future.[6][7]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a petition in Europe called for an "emergency basic income". It got more than 200,000 signatures.[8] The public opinion was largely positive.[9][10]

Reasons and arguments

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One of the most popular reasons for an UBI is that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will make many jobs obsolete in the near future. However, people still have to get enough money to live, even when there is no work for them anymore. An UBI could be a good solution for this problem.[6][7]

Better working conditions

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Advocates of UBI say that with basic income, unattractive jobs would have to be better paid and their working conditions improved. This is because there is still a need for people who do this kind of work. And if they already get enough money from UBI, there has to be an incentive for doing these jobs.[11]

Better society

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Some hope that an UBI will lead to a happier and fairer society with fewer debates about envy.[12]

Some people also think that an UBI could make society more creative because people would no longer have the pressure to work. For example, people would have more time to educate themselves or find things they are interested in.[13]

Some believe that an UBI will increase the willingness to take risks because everyone would be financially secure to some degree. This would promote a culture of ingenuity and increase the spirit of invention.[14]

Notable advocates

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There are many prominent advocates of universal basic income. The English-language Wikipedia has a whole article about UBI advocates. This section here only lists the most notable advocates.

Pilot programs and experiments

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Omitara, one of the two poor villages in Namibia where a local basic income was tested in 2008–2009

Since the 1960s, there have been a number of basic income pilot programs and experiments. Some examples include:


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  • Basic income trials run in 2011-2012 in several villages in India.[29] It was found that basic income in the region raised the education rate of young people by 25%.[30]
  • Iran introduced a national basic income program in autumn 2010. It is paid to all citizens and replaces the gasoline subsidies, electricity and some food products,[31] that the country applied for years to reduce inequalities and poverty. The sum corresponded in 2012 to approximately US$40 per person per month, US$480 per year for a single person and US$2,300 for a family of five people.[32][33]
  • In Spain, the ingreso mínimo vital, the income guarantee system, is an economic benefit guaranteed by the social security in Spain, but in 2016 was considered in need of reform.[34]
  • The GiveDirectly experiment in a disadvantaged village of Nairobi, Kenya, the longest-running basic income pilot as of November 2017. It is set to run for 12 years.[35][36][37]
  • A project called Eight in a village in Fort Portal, Uganda that provides income for 56 adults and 88 children.[38]
  • A two-year pilot the Finnish government began in January 2017 which involved 2,000 subjects[39][40] In April 2018, the Finnish government rejected a request for funds to extend and expand the program from Kela (Finland's social security agency).[41]
  • An experiment in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands, launched in early 2017, that is testing different rates of aid.[42]
  • A three-year basic income pilot that the Ontario provincial government, Canada, launched in the cities of Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay in July 2017.[43] However, it was only made available to people with a low income and funding would be removed if they obtained employment.[44] This made it more related to the current welfare system than true basic income. The pilot project was canceled on 31 July 2018 by the Progressive Conservative government under Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
  • In Israel in 2018, a non-profit initiative GoodDollar started a project. The goal was to build a global economic framework for providing universal basic income. The initiative aims to launch a peer-to-peer money transfer network. There, money can be distributed to those most in need and regardless of their location, based on the principles of UBI. The project raised US$1 million from eToro.[45][46]
  • The Rythu Bandhu scheme is a welfare scheme started in the state of Telangana, India, in May 2018. It was aimed at helping farmers. Each farm owner receives 4,000 INR per acre two times a year for rabi and kharif harvests. To finance the program, a budget allocation of 120 billion INR (US$1.6 million as of June 2020) was made in the 2018–2019 state budget.[47]


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  • Social income started paying out basic incomes to people in need in Sierra Leone. The international initiative is financed by contributions from people world-wide. They donate 1% of their monthly paychecks.[48]
  • In May 2020 Spain introduced minimum basic income. This reached about 2% of the population. It is expected to cost state coffers three billion euros ($3.5 billion) a year."[49]
  • In August 2020, a project in Germany started that gives a 1,200 Euros monthly basic income in a lottery system to citizens who apply. The project will last three years and be compared against 1,380 people who do not receive basic income.[50]
  • In October 2020, HudsonUP[51] was launched in Hudson, New York, by The Spark of Hudson[52] and Humanity Forward Foundation.[53] The aim is to give $500 monthly basic income to 25 residents. It will last five years and be compared against 50 people who are not receiving basic income.
  • In May 2021 the government of Wales announced the trialling of a universal basic income scheme to "see whether the promises that basic income holds out are genuinely delivered".[54]

Other websites

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Further reading

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  • Colombino, U. (2015). "Five Crossroads on the Way to Basic Income: An Italian Tour" (PDF). Italian Economic Journal. 1 (3): 353–389. doi:10.1007/s40797-015-0018-3. S2CID 26507450.
  • Bryce Covert, "What Money Can Buy: The promise of a universal basic income – and its limitations", The Nation, vol. 307, no. 6 (10 / 17 September 2018), pp. 33–35.
  • Benjamin M. Friedman, "Born to Be Free" (review of Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, Harvard University Press, 2017), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXIV, no. 15 (12 October 2017), pp. 39–41.
  • John Lanchester, "Good New Idea: John Lanchester makes the case for Universal Basic Income" (discusses 8 books, published between 2014 and 2019, comprehensively advocating Universal Basic Income), London Review of Books, vol. 41, no. 14 (18 July 2019), pp. 5–8.
  • Marinescu, Ioana (February 2018). "No Strings Attached: The Behavioral Effects of U.S. Unconditional Cash Transfer Programs". NBER Working Paper No. 24337. doi:10.3386/w24337.
  • Ewan McGaughey, 'Will Robots Automate Your Job Away? Full Employment, Basic Income, and Economic Democracy' (2018) SSRN, part 4(2).
  • Ailsa McKay, The Future of Social Security Policy: Women, Work and a Citizens Basic Income, Routledge, 2005, ISBN 9781134287185.
  • Paul O'Brien, Universal Basic Income: Pennies from Heaven, The History Press, 2017, ISBN 978 1 84588 367 6.
  • Karl Widerquist, Jose Noguera, Yannick Vanderborght, and Jurgen De Wispelaere (editors). Basic Income: An Anthology of Contemporary Research, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  • Karl Widerquist, ed., Exploring the Basic Income Guarantee, (book series), Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Karl Widerquist, Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, March 2013. Early drafts of each chapter are available online for free at this link.


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  1. Clifford, Catherine (2019-06-27). "Why everyone is talking about free cash handouts—an explainer on universal basic income". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-05-25.
  2. "EU Survey: 64% of Europeans in Favour of Basic Income". Basicincome.org. 23 May 2016. Archived from the original on 26 May 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  3. Durant, Will (2002). Heroes of History: A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-7432-2910-4.
  4. Bryce Covert, "What Money Can Buy: The promise of a universal basic income – and its limitations", The Nation, vol. 307, no. 6 (10 / 17 September 2018), p. 33.
  5. "Citizen's Income – An unconditional, nonwithdrawable income paid to every individual as a right of citizenship". Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Diam, Peter H. (2016-12-13). "If Robots and AI Steal Our Jobs, a Universal Basic Income Could Help". Singularity Hub. Retrieved 2020-09-24.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Clifford, Catherine (2018-06-18). "Elon Musk: Free cash handouts 'will be necessary' if robots take humans' jobs". CNBC. Retrieved 2021-02-22.
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  12. "Ein Tausender für alle, jeden Monat, einfach so: Kann das funktionieren?". www.nordbayern.de. Retrieved 2021-10-12.
  13. "Would a Universal Basic Income Make Us Lazy or Creative?". Bloomberg.com. 2020-10-03. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  14. Kazmir, Dr Munr (2021-06-23). "Believe in American Ingenuity? Support Universal Basic Income". Age of Awareness. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  15. Strange, Adario (5 November 2016). "Elon Musk thinks universal income is answer to automation taking human jobs". Mashable. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  16. Collum, Danny Duncan (2019-10-22). "Do We Need Universal Basic Income?". Sojourners. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  17. Gillespie, Patrick (2017-05-26). "Mark Zuckerberg supports universal basic income. What is it?". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
  18. "VIDEO: Basic Income debated on CNN (Chris Hughes & Eduardo Porter) | Basic Income News". 2017-05-05. Archived from the original on 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2021-02-21.
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  24. Brooks, Libby (25 December 2017). "Scotland united in curiosity as councils trial universal basic income". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  25. Forget, Evelyn L. (2011). "The Town With No Poverty: The Health Effects of a Canadian Guaranteed Annual Income Field Experiment". Canadian Public Policy. 37 (3): 283–305. doi:10.3138/cpp.37.3.283.
  26. "Innovation series: Does the gig economy mean 'endless possibilities' or the death of jobs?". 8 October 2016.
  27. Krahe, Dialika (10 August 2009). "How a Basic Income Program Saved a Namibian Village". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  28. "BRAZIL: Basic Income in Quatinga Velho celebrates 3-years of operation | BIEN". Basicincome.org. Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  29. "INDIA: Basic Income Pilot Project Finds Positive Results," Archived 9 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine Basic Income News, BIEN (22 September 2012)
  30. Roy, Abhishek. "Part 2 of SPI's Universal Basic Income Series". Seven Pillars Institute. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  31. "Economic jihad". The Economist. 2011-06-23. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  32. "Iran introduced a basic income scheme, and something strange happened". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  33. Tabatabai, Hamid (2012), Caputo, Richard K. (ed.), "Iran: A Bumpy Road toward Basic Income", Basic Income Guarantee and Politics, New York: Palgrave Macmillan US, pp. 285–300, doi:10.1057/9781137045300_16, ISBN 978-1-349-29762-7, retrieved 2021-02-09
  34. "Real Decreto-ley 20/2020, de 29 de mayo, por el que se establece el ingreso mínimo vital". boe.es. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  35. Mathews, Dylan (6 March 2017). "This Kenyan village is a laboratory for the biggest basic income experiment ever". Vox.com. Vox. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  36. "How a universal basic income stabilized Kenyans in bad times". MIT Sloan. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  37. Suri, Tavneet. "Universal basic income helped Kenyans weather COVID-19 - but it's not a silver bullet". The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  38. "EIGHT HOME". eight.world.
  39. Henley, Jon (1 August 2018). "Money for nothing: is Finland's universal basic income trial too good to be true?". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  40. Sodha, Sonia (19 February 2017). "Is Finland's basic universal income a solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages?". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  41. Henley, Jon (1 August 2018). "Finland to end basic income trial after two years". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  42. Tognini, Giacomo (23 February 2017). "Universal Basic Income, 5 Experiments From Around The World". www.worldcrunch.com. WorldCrunch. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  43. Monsebraaten, Laurie (24 April 2017). "Ontario launches basic income pilot for 4,000 in Hamilton, Thunder Bay, Lindsay". Toronto Star. Star Media Group. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  44. "Ontario Basic Income, Pilot". www.ontario.ca.
  45. "GoodDollar: Send Not For Whom The Bell Tolls, It Tolls For Thee". The Fintech Times. 17 May 2019. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  46. Moya, Valentina. "GoodDollar: cryptocurrencies would end inequality". LatinAmerican Post. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
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  48. "Social Income". socialincome.org.
  49. Davidson (now), Helen; Doherty (earlier), Ben (2020-08-30). "Coronavirus live news: Global cases pass 25m; Auckland prepares to exit lockdown". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  50. Payne, Adam (19 August 2020). "Germany is beginning a universal-basic-income trial with people getting $1,400 a month for 3 years". Business Insider. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
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