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FRANCE: Will France be the next European country to start basic income tests?

Article originally written in French by Basile Durand (MFRB), translated by Henri Geist (MFRB).

Answering the meteoric surge of interest provoked by the Finnish proposition to experiment with the basic income, the MFRB organized a conference on March third regarding UBI pilot programs and the Finnish Embassy in Paris. This conference was aimed at promoting understanding of the Finnish proposals and its motivations as well as opening the debate about the possibility of starting UBI experiments in France as well.

The conference was organized around four speakers and centered around the basic income and its experiments. The speakers included Olli Kangas, director of the research department of KELA (Finnish Institute of Social Welfare); Martine Alcorta, Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes regional councilor delegated to social and societal innovation, who aims to test a basic income in her region; Arnauld de l’Épine from Ars Industrialis, an international association for an industrial policy of the spirit technologies (founded by Bernard Stiegler) who said he is in favor of a contributory income; and Jean-Eric Hyafil, co-founder of the MFRB (French Movement for a Basic Income).

This article summarizes the discussions and includes some tweets exchanged during the conference with the hashtag #rdbfinlande.

Finnish experiments will start in 2017

Finland is currently in the process of establishing definitions and studying the feasibility of a basic income experiment. To cope with the complexity of social protection and the risk of poverty traps, a debate on the establishment of a universal income has taken shape in recent years. An intermediate report showing four types of experiments is due to be published in the coming days. Then Finland will choose one of the four experimentation options, which will be presented in the final report this November. The goal is to start the pilots at the beginning of 2017, which will run for a period of two years.

The first proposal offers a basic income distributed to everyone without conditions. The second proposal is a form of unconditional RSA, replacing the current social minima benefit. The third option is creating a basic income through a negative income tax. And the fourth option is left open for now. The questions of the amount of the basic income, the number of participants in the study and the unconditional nature of the benefit are also still under debate. On top of that, there are some additional concerns that must be sorted out, including fear of constitutional litigation or residency requirements. The introduction of the basic income requires a total overhaul of the welfare system, and this generates tension with some groups in society, particularly labor unions, which are major actors in the current system.

In France, a change of paradigm is necessary

Quoting Amartya Sen, who wished that everyone improved their own abilities without being constrained to find a job, Arnauld de l’Epine insisted on the importance of the freedom of choice, referring to the Declaration of Philadelphia or the Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers which states that “Every individual shall be free to choose and engage in an occupation according to the regulations governing each occupation.” Building on the report of the French National Council of Digital, introduced in January, which proposed to experiment and study the project of basic income in France, Arnauld de l’Epine then supported the idea of establishing a guaranteed income to deal with automation and the rise of unemployment. The association Ars Industrialis is collaborating with Plaine Commune (agglomerations community of Seine-Saint-Denis) to test a supplemental income targeting young people.

Jean-Éric Hyafil recalled the cross-party nature of the MFRB. In its charter, the MFRB promotes an unconditional basic income without impairing the situation of the helpless or jeopardizing unemployment allowances, retirees or health insurance. Thus, one of the MFRB’s proposals would be to implement a national basic income gradually. The first step could be to implement an allowance like the RSA (French Solidarity Labor Income) for children, then by automation, individualization and finally the universalization of the RSA.

All speakers agreed on the need to experiment with a basic income prior to fully implementing such a policy, mirroring the process in Finland and Netherlands. In France, the experimentation project in Aquitaine is still in its embryonic state. But the agreement signed between EELV (French Ecologists) and the PS (French Socialists) during the last regional elections included the basic income experimentation project. Martine Alcorta stated she needed to study the subject in order to propose an experimentation model. The settings are thus not yet set. Quoting Amartya Sen. “Wealth is the ability to choose your life”, Martine Alcorta showed us her willingness to complete this experimental project.

France could therefore use the Finnish proposal to build its own experimentation, adapting it to the French context. By raising the subject, submitting ideas and reporting the various proposals, this conference gave us the opportunity to highlight the growing debate about the basic income. The MFRB stays at the disposal of all communities that desire to think about this important Twenty First Century idea.

Watch the video of the conference online (with English subtitles): https://youtu.be/mp5h9klZ0gI

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  • Friends,
    Finnish model to be spread in Europe:
    France or other countries cannot reproduce the Finnish model of a basic income. Finland is a small country compared to France, Germany, UK…and they have to find their own balance between a rigid job market and a flexible job market.
    Explanation for a rigid employment market:
    In 2010, 3 US Nobel prize in economy have found the factors that are creating unemployment. According to these US researchers. The unemployment is created by the lack of market transparency. In such a way, for a job seekers to find a job it will take in average 100 job applications. (and more if the job market is not perfect).
    Definition of a Perfect job market:
    It is a market where the information on the job can circulate without obstacles or be screened; In such a way, job seekers can exchange their skills for the job offer (in real time)
    (Often the job flows from employers are not meeting the job seeker desire to work. It is wasting time and resources. So, the unemployment is escalating. Then, it becomes clear, that all stakeholders are going to use their own strategies to advance in the society jungle, and reduce or increase unemployment)
    Recommendation: Therefore thus, if countries can ensure satisfactory job transparency and easing the flow of information about the jobs. It would increase the performance of the job market, and job seekers, will stay a reduce time on the unemployment market benefit. Also, society demands for job should be offered to suitable and skill full candidates that can ensure a quality job, mission, activity or task.
    Assumption: Basic income is a tool for the long term of sustainable development (not short term based on business profit)
    a) The basic income has to be thought on the long- run. It is a tool of sustained sustainability. It is about compensating the failure of the production models (economic growth) and the giving all citizens a decent job (which is also United Nations objective of Post 2015 Sustainable development Goals).
    (In fact, the society is creating unemployment (with the policies). There are plenty jobs for all. Also, anybody can have an activity in society. However people can stay without being employed. Societal job allocation was primarily a social contract between the individuals of the same society, in order to boost the economic performance based on the skills of individuals.
    b) Example, of the social -economic- foundation of society as an organization
    If I an individual was good at cutting hairs. The society would qualify an individual as a hair-cutter. Other individuals that were good at cooking and the society would qualified them as a cook/chefs… In order to maximize the society gains (performance), there would be an exchange based on the market. This was the birth of the business firm organization, which supported the model- businesses are social models too.
    c) Market regulations either for profit or solidarity economy
    Markets would be the best regulators of social welfare than regulation (Adam Smith and the invisible hand of God) and in order to be united, the states would regulate with negative and positive incentives, in order to have fairer exchanges. It has happened like this, and there have been more Keynesian interventions in the market systems. Today, we are deeply concerned and involved in the new social solidarity economy with corporative, philanthropies, funds, mutuality.
    d) A basic income to be real needs to be institutionalized:
    All is about the uses of concepts and institutions. It is people who are making these concepts and institutions. For example, Obama said Africa does not need leaders. They are lots of leaders. What are missing in Africa are the valuable institutions. Institutions are long stable organization behaviours, that can be traced and on which people can tell stories (good or bad). Like the social security, or the police, the state, a national armies, a basic income, homelessness…
    e) Globalization and the destruction of the societies (French sociologist Alain Touraine)
    Today, with globalization, the working/leisure ratio needs to be re-founded – with new pillars- and re-establishing the connection between the individuals. It has not yet happened. Therefore thus Basic income remains a safety net, and sometimes the only source of revenues (particularly in conflict affected environment). It is insufficient -I assumed – it has to be complemented with other measures to ensure flexibility and reward on merits and talents to prevent the race to the bottom, which is at the core or crises. Note also, economy policy science has predicted that if all citizens are occupied with a job, there will be a failure of society, inn such a way, citizens need to be specialized. What we see today, with the crises is the race to the bottom- nobody want to learn, everybody wants money, but no job. Therefore thus the risk of a basic income for all. In such a way, even best countries (France…), which have already implemented a social model, which is famous for RSA..there is a willingness to review the model of basic income to promote strategies to put people back to work. Money that is allocated to poor people, has to come from somewhere, which is often the rich or the production model. It is often made within the scope of a Tax system. In such a way, countries, which are promoting a basic income, must build an efficient tax system, too. So production gained are re-allocated through the lens of a basic income, for those that cannot work and they will be supported by the society and solidarity of all. (if you want, it is like a business firm, or a multinational,, which are giving shares (or retained earning) to the shareholders. The basic income, has the same function when the national society is sound financially, and soundly manage, by politicians that are able to run the society. Problem today, most government are not connected with their populations. In such a way, there is no anticipations, or a desire to create a basic income of whatsoever, but just to be re-elected for the political term.
    Recommendations:
    1- Education for jobs:
    Most importantly, it is about the societal education and country education system, which is where should be the real reforms, in such a way education for employment is real. Not making people studying and spending a long time (or years) at University to discover there is no job market.
    2- Mix between Flexible and rigid market:
    Most European markets are rigid. The flexible market, will not happen immediately. In such a way, there is a need to find in Europe and in world countries the real balance between rigidity and flexibility of the job market.
    3-Tackling globalization to re-create the social links:
    Also, with the coming of the new society, which is more global and based on internet, distance working, new geographies, and UN agenda for actions. One can questioned the role of jobs..
    4- People do not need jobs, but well-being:
    Money through the lens of a job scheme does not necessary bring the well-being. The ultimate goal of an existing life on earth should not be money (working for money or a basic income, which is a bottleneck of our industrial a mass production or integrative system, but the need for a well-being for all.
    Conclusion:
    The industrial revolution has created employment and cities: What is a job? (The ancient Greeks did not work, they have created democracy). Maybe it will stay as we have always known its definition (working for money) since the industrial revolutions, which created the urban lives and mass and international migrations. Also, we do not know in the future, what will be these new jobs, and if people will work as the work is known today. In such a way it is nice to think about a basic income, but think also to the next step (after the basic income)
    Thank,
    Georges Radjou, BIRD

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