In the context of the crisis that Europe has been living in since 2008, “universal basic income” is a concept which is gaining more and more momentum. An unconditional income for all citizens is an idea that has been around for two centuries but has also grown over the past two decades and led to some pilot programmes being proposed and implemented. Finland introduced in January 2017 a trial for a small group of people; it is already set to end in December 2018, however. In Switzerland, voters were given the opportunity to express their opinions on an initiative to implement such basic income two years ago, and they overwhelmingly rejected it.
This background was shared by Guy Standing, Professional Research Associate at SOAS, University of London, and a founding member and Honorary Co-President of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). On 23 May, first day of the European Business Summit, YouthProAktiv joined a debate about this concept and how it could be implement by EU member states. This exciting debate was moderated by Chris Burns, freelance journalist, with Guy Standing as speaker.
As Mr Standing told the audience, “basic income gives us freedom because poverty gives insecurity”. He believes we cannot be free if we are worried about money, about how to live or feed our children. Consequently, if people had more security, they would progress, they would think about starting their own business or changing their job looking for better labour conditions, and so the labour market would benefit indirectly.
He described basic income as a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without a means test or a work requirement. Basic income is characterised by being periodic, at regular intervals, not a one-off grant, and being paid using an appropriate exchange channel. In the general understanding of the term, it would allow those who receive it to decide what they spend it on.
Mr Standing shared some examples of success for the concept of universal basic income and the advantages that he believes such guaranteed income would have for citizens: financially safe people are capable of improving their living conditions, thrive in their cities and, consequently, improve these cities, creating business and progress together. Basic income in poor villages, for example, has been the key for giving people hope, a new life and new opportunities.
Recently, basic income has been debated in Italy, and maybe this debate will spread to other countries in the future, Mr Standing concluded.
What do you think about the concept? Does basic income have more advantages than disadvantages? Would it help proactive young people create their own startups to benefit the society and follow their dreams?
For more reflections on topics such as the labour market, future of work, entrepreneurship and others, feel free to look at the rest of our articles covering more EBS sessions and other interesting events.You might like, for example, our recent report on The Future of Work debate which touched upon the topic of basic income.