by Pau Llosa Cufí
Imagine the security of pounds in your pocket without ever working for ‘the man’. this may not be too far away…
Basic income trials are starting to take off across Europe. For the first time, governments throughout the continent have decided to explore whether this intriguing proposal can work in practice. Imagine if your days were your own but you were still given a steady-job salary? With these trials that notion suddently isn’t seeming quite so crazy.
For a long time the potential benefits and pitfalls of a basic income have been debated. Some argue that it is too expensive, that it could generate migration problems and potentially demotivate the existing workforce. Others, however, believe that it is a credible response to the approaching automated future, a way to tackle inequality and economically viable to boot.
What is basic income?
A basic income is an unconditional and regular payment meant to provide enough money to cover a person’s basic living cost.
The United Kingdom could see a Basic Income pilot for the first time if proposed trials go ahead in Glasgow and Fife.
The Scottish trials are the least developed but the most ambitious of Europe. If the governments of the first and third most populated regions of Scotland achieve success, Scotland will be the first country in Europe to distribute a basic income; not just to a select group of people, but to all living in the trial area.
The Catalan Experiment
Barcelona launched the B-MINCOME project this year. The project receives €4.85 million – 80% of the total cost – from the European Commission after its selection in the Urban Innovative Action Awards as one of the 18 best solutions to new challenges.
The three-year pilot consists of 2,000 citizens with current ‘economic difficulties’, divided into five groups. Each group receives different stipends under different conditions.
The Dutch Test
Utrecht, the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, launched a two-year trial this January with the cooperation of the University of Utrecht.
This proposal involves 250 citizens placed into six test groups, who receive the benefits similarly to Barcelona: each group receives different stipends – from €972.70 to €1,389.57 – per month, under varying conditions.
Finland was the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a monthly basic income earlier in 2017.
The two-year project selected 2,000 unemployed people at random and pays them €560 per month. The citizens do not have to report how they are spending the money, or whether they are job-hunting. The amount, which is not subject to tax, is deducted from any benefits they were receiving.
With more uncertainty than security in the world today, these public bodies are adventurously seeking a new way to tackle the increasingly worrisome issues of unemployment and inequality. A move that should be applauded, regardless of their results.
“Basic income is not a utopia, it’s a practical business plan for the next step of the human journey” (Jeremy Rifkin, Economist)