Chinese youth ‘optimistic’ toward basic income

Chinese youth ‘optimistic’ toward basic income

In a recent study conducted examining attitudes among Chinese youth towards basic income, notable findings emerged, highlighting both a lack of comprehensive understanding and a positive disposition towards the concept.

The study, conducted through a questionnaire by BIEN student interns in China, focused on Chinese youth’s awareness and perceptions of basic income, a topic gaining relevance amidst economic challenges in China. With the country experiencing a slowdown in its rapid economic growth, phenomena such as “inward curling” and “lying flat” have emerged, indicative of the pressures faced by young people.

Basic income, a program offering financial support without conditions, is posited as a solution to alleviate these pressures, providing individuals with the dignity of survival and the power of choice.

Key findings from the survey reveal that while Chinese youth are enthusiastic and hold a positive attitude towards basic income, their understanding is limited. Nearly half of the respondents lacked a fundamental grasp of the concept and many held misconceptions about its universal nature. A significant portion believed the amount should vary based on location or personal income, contrary to the principle of universality inherent in basic income.

Despite these gaps in understanding, the overall response from Chinese youth was optimistic, reflecting a societal inclination towards fairness and the belief in basic income as a beneficial social program.

These insights suggest a need for further education and awareness-raising efforts, perhaps spearheaded by organizations like the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), to enhance understanding and support for basic income among China’s youth. Such efforts could play a crucial role in addressing the challenges faced by this demographic and in shaping the future of social welfare programs in China.

The full details and analysis of this study can be found in the original research found here.

Written by: Shengjia Qin & Rui Liang
Edited by: Tyler Prochazka
Mentor: Tim Lu

Basic Income: Sufficient Evidence, Now Politics

Basic Income: Sufficient Evidence, Now Politics

In 1942, as people started to think about remaking society after the War, William Beveridge wrote a report for the British government that was to shape the welfare state in Europe. He wrote, ‘It is a time for revolutions, not for patching.’ What he meant was that it was useless to make minor changes to the old system. A new system was needed. The evidence was clear.
Today, we are at a similar juncture. The social policies of the 20th century are outdated. Selective schemes for what economists call ‘contingency risks’, such as a spell of unemployment, an illness or an accident, do not deal with the defining challenges of our age. We live at a time of rentier capitalism, in which more income goes to owners of property – physical, financial or intellectual – while less goes to those who rely on labour and work for their incomes. 

To read the full article click here.

Book Review: Basic Income: A Short Guide by Annie Miller

Book Review: Basic Income: A Short Guide by Annie Miller

Annie Miller, a co-founder of BIEN, has just published a new book, Basic Income: A Short Guide (Edinburgh: Luath Press). This is a clear, concise, and complete work that should be in the library of every supporter of basic income (BI).

The book begins with a critique of modern social insurance systems and means-tested social assistance safety nets and then sets forth an enhanced definition of BI that builds on the current definition found on the BIEN website. This new definition is informed by Annie’s participation in the BIEN task force currently working on improving this definition and was presented by her at the 22nd BIEN Congress in Seoul that just ended. To the five BIEN characteristics (periodic, cash payment, individual, universal, and unconditional) she adds a sixth, uniform: “the amount of a basic income is the same/equal for everyone within a given jurisdiction at a given time and does not vary according to pre-existing categories or circumstances.” She then argues that this uniform basic income should be a foundational element in a broader social protection plan that also includes “adequacy top-up payments, other differential benefits, targeted and non-uniform means-tested benefits, and other cash benefits for which basic income is not a good substitute, such as a welfare fund for emergency payments for fire or flood.”

The book goes on to discuss many practical issues such as integrating a basic income into existing social assistance programs, sources of finance, affordability issues, economic benefits, political support, empirical evidence from around the world, the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, other recent developments, and suggestions for what BI supporters can do to advance the cause. It ends with a select bibliography – all this in 80 compact pages, a true tour de force.

Taiwan Makes History with Universal Cash Payment Plan

Taiwan Makes History with Universal Cash Payment Plan

Taiwan is making history by sending out a one-time universal cash payment of $6,000 New Taiwan dollars (NTD) to every citizen “young and old.” This is the first time the country has implemented such a policy, and it comes as a result of excess tax revenue of $450 billion NTD, much of which is coming from corporate taxes that have seen record-high profits. $140 billion NTD will be dedicated to the cash payments, with the remainder going towards improving labor and health insurance systems and providing funding for local governments.

UBI Taiwan hailed the move as a victory for Taiwanese citizens, as the payment is unconditional and universal, meaning that everyone in the country will receive it, regardless of income or other circumstances. They said it reflects the growing demand that a greater proportion of Taiwan’s growth is shared with average families.

“This is a huge victory for the basic income movement,” UBI Taiwan founder Tyler Prochazka said. 

UBI Taiwan promotes unconditional basic income (UBI) in Taiwan. UBI is a policy that periodically sends out unconditional cash payments to every citizen in a country regardless of an individual’s income or job status. 

The organization has noted the problem of stagnant wages for the last two decades in the country and the rising cost of housing. Through basic income payments, they argue that many Taiwanese could pursue better opportunities and improve their education.

“Unconditional cash transfers are an efficient way to provide an ‘economic vaccination’ to make sure that everyone can face the future in a healthy and happy manner,” said Jiakuan Su, the new chairman of UBI Taiwan.

Over the last few years, Taiwan’s economy has experienced record-breaking 6.45% GDP growth in 2021 and over 8.73% growth in exports in 2022. However, most people have not enjoyed the fruits of this economic growth, as a 104 Job Bank survey found that real wage growth was nearly zero in 2022 due to inflation. The universal cash payment is a way for everyone to have a small share in Taiwan’s economic success. 

“With the rise of the pandemic over the last few years, Taiwan has experienced rapid changes in its economy and society,” Su said. “We have experienced directly why Taiwan needs a resilient social welfare system to protect each person’s economic security.”

Since the payment is equal to all taxpayers, it will have a progressive effect with a greater proportion of the refund going to low-income earners. There is some expectation that the cash payment could help stimulate the economy because low-income households are more likely to use the money to satisfy their essentials, such as food and housing, freeing up some additional discretionary money for recreational uses as well. A greater willingness to spend by average families could help smaller businesses that may have struggled since the pandemic.

Both political parties have agreed on the general outline of the proposal and the cash could be sent out as soon as February. A surprise has been that the plan appears to be a universal rebate of the revenue instead of a targeted one, which will make it easier for everyone to apply and reduce administrative costs and time. One area still under consideration is whether foreign taxpayers will receive any of the money.

Previous cash assistance schemes during the pandemic were targeted and a stimulus voucher was sent universally. The pandemic vouchers were limited in how they could be spent and had an expiration date, similar to the vouchers under former President Ma Ying-Jeou.

Members of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) argued during the pandemic that cash should have been sent out instead of vouchers. At the time, the TPP held a news conference with UBI Taiwan to discuss the benefits of cash over vouchers. Many also complained that the targeted cash programs were difficult to receive because of the strict conditions. 

Research by the World Bank later demonstrated that the simplicity of universal and unconditional cash payments during the pandemic increased access to the assistance and likely provided economic stimulus. Previous research showed a multiplier effect up to $2.6 for every dollar sent. Fears of saving the cash were largely overblown. For example, in over a dozen economies primarily in East Asia, 40 percent of the universal cash transfers during the pandemic were directly used for consumption. 

Besides improved standard of living, research on basic income consistently shows improved mental health and trust in society. A meta-analysis of basic income policies looked at eight governmental reports as well as seven peer reviewed studies. They found there was justification that the alleviation of stress from financial instability could be a reason for improved mental health from basic income.

There have been criticisms of the current cash payment plan, including concerns about inflation. However, it is important to remember that this is surplus tax revenue that has already been collected and is not new money created by the central bank. An effect on inflation is just as likely if the government directly spends the money or if it is sent back to taxpayers. 

Additionally, while it is true that Taiwan’s insurance systems require further reforms for sustainability, the vast majority of the surplus revenue is being used to shore up these systems and provide an emergency fund. A one time injection of funds is helpful but will not save these systems in the long run. 

Previously, basic income advocates from UBI Taiwan have suggested that Taiwan could establish a sovereign wealth fund (SWF). Such a fund would act as a guarantee that Taiwanese could enjoy more equity in the growth of Taiwan’s economy even if wages remain stagnant. Excess revenue could be placed in the SWF and invested in the economy, with dividends from the SWF distributed back to the people each year, similar to the system in the US state of Alaska. The Alaska Permanent Fund sends out a yearly payment from the oil revenue generated in the state. In 2022, the universal payout reached a record high of $3,284 USD. 

“I applaud the government’s decision to send the universal cash transfer and hope this establishes the precedent for Taiwan to consider making this a permanent policy,” Su said.

Prochazka furthered that by making this payment equal to all citizens, the government is taking the “first small step” towards ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are shared by all. 

A short history of BIEN

A short history of BIEN

The origins: an idea, a collective, a prize. In the Autumn of 1983, Paul-Marie Boulanger, Philippe Defeyt and Philippe Van Parijs, three young researchers attached to the departments of demography, economics and philosophy of the University of Louvain (Belgium) decided to set up a working group in order to explore the implications of an extremely simple, unconventional but attractive idea which Van Parijs had proposed to call, in a paper circulated in December 1982, “allocation universelle”. The group chose as a collective pseudonym Collectif Charles Fourier. Its main output was a special issue of the Brussels monthly La Revue nouvelle (April 1985). But along the way, it won a prize, with a provocative presentation of the idea and its putative consequences, in an essay competition on the future of work organised by the Brussels-based King Baudouin Foundation.

The first meeting. With the money it thus unexpectedly earned, the Collectif Charles Fourier decided to organise a meeting to which they would invite a number of people to whom the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income had, they gradually discovered, independently occurred. This meeting became the first international conference on Basic Income, convened by Philippe Van Parijs in the university town of Louvain-la-Neuve on 4-6 September 1986, with sixty participants individually invited. It turned out to be quite an extraordinary event, with many seemingly lonely fighters suddenly discovering a whole bunch of kin spirits. They included, among others, Gunnar Adler-Karlsson, Jan-Otto Andersson, Yoland Bresson, Paul de Beer, Alexander de Roo, Rosheen Callender, Nic Douben, Marie-Louise Duboin, Gérard Roland, Ian Gough, Pierre Jonckheere, Bill Jordan, Greetje Lubbi, Annie Miller, Edwin Morley-Fletcher, Claus Offe, Hermione Parker, Riccardo Petrella, David Purdy, Guy Standing, Robert van der Veen, Georg Vobruba and Tony Walter.

A network is born. At the final session of the conference, several participants expressed the wish that some more permanent association be created, with the task of publishing a regular newsletter and organising regular conferences. Guy Standing proposed calling this association Basic Income European Network, which gathered an easy consensus, since no one could beat the beauty of the corresponding acronym (BIEN, which means “good” in French and Spanish). Its purpose, later enshrined in its Statutes adopted in 1988, was formulated as follows: “BIEN aims to serve as a link between individuals and groups 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”. Peter Ashby (National Council for Voluntaty organisations), Claus Offe (then at the University of Bremen) and Guy Standing (then at the International Labour Organisation) became BIEN’s first chairpersons. Walter Van Trier (then at the University of Antwerp) became secretary, Alexander de Roo (then parliamentary assistant at the European Parliament) treasurer, and Philippe Van Parijs (University of Louvain) newsletter editor, subsequently combined with secretary. Ashby and Offe left as co-chairs in 1988 and were succeeded by Edwin Morley-Fletcher (1988-1998) and Ilona Ostner (1996-2004), jointly with Guy Standing (1986-2008).

Lifeline of the network: the newsletter. In the pre-internet era, the regular dispatching of a printed newsletter formed the very core of the existence of a network. From 1988 to July 2001, BIEN published a printed Newsletter that was sent to fee-paying members three times per year (36 issues). In order to facilitate the management of the subscriptions, the annual membership was replaced by a life membership formula in the Autumn of 1998, The emergence of electronic communication made it possible to intensify and widen the spreading of information. From January 2000 onwards, BIEN News flashes were sent several times per year to a large number of subscribers far beyond BIEN’s membership (138 issues between January 2000 and January 2020, when BIEN adopted a new style of Bulletin). In 1996, BIEN also inaugurated a website. Initially, it did little more than making newsletters and newsflashes available for downloading. It later grew rapidly to provide a wealth of information and resources on Basic Income and the Basic Income movement.

Congresses of growing scope. Starting with the founding conference, BIEN organized a congress every second year, with a growing and increasingly diverse set of participants:

  1. Louvain-la-Neuve, BE (UCLouvain, 4-6 September 1986, convenor: Philippe Van Parijs)
  2. Antwerp, BE (Universitaire Faculteiten St Ignatius, 22-24 September 1988, convenor: Walter Van Trier)
  3. Florence, IT (European University Institute, 19-20 September 1990, convenor: Edwin Morley-Fletcher)
  4. Paris, FR (Université de Paris-Val de Marne, 18-19 September 1992, convenors: Yoland Bresson & & Pierre Lavagne)
  5. London, UK (Goldsmith College, 8-10 September 1994, convenor: Richard Clements)
  6. Vienna, AT (United Nations Centre, 12-14 September 1996, convenors: Lieselotte Wohlgenannt, Michael Tepser & Bernd Marin)
  7. Amsterdam, NL (Universiteit van Amsterdam, 10-12 September 1998, convenors: Robert J. van der Veen, Loek Groot & Paul de Beer)
  8. Berlin, DE (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin), 6-7 October 2000, convenor: Claus Offe)
  9. Geneva, CH (International Labour Office, 13-14 September 2002, convenor: Guy Standing)
  10. Barcelona, ES (Forum Universal de las Culturas, 19-20 September 2004, convenors: David Casassas & Jose Noguera)

Archive from the early days. Contributions to some of the congresses were published in a number of collective volumes:

  • Anne G. Miller ed. Proceedings of the First International Conference on Basic Income (Louvain-la-Neuve, September 1986). Antwerp: BIEN & London: BIRG, 1988.
  • Walter Van Trier ed. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Basic Income. (Antwerp, September 1988). Antwerp: BIEN & London: BIRG, 1990
  • Philippe Van Parijs ed., Arguing For Basic Income. Ethical Foundations for a Radical Reform. London & New York: Verso, 1992.
  • Robert J. van der Veen & Loek Groot eds., Basic Income on the Agenda. Policy Options and Political Feasibility, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2000.
  • Guy Standing, ed., Promoting Income Security as a Right. Europe and North America, London: Anthem Press, 2004.

Along with a great many other books, papers and reports on Basic Income from before the internet era, the papers presented at BIEN’s first few congresses are kept in BIEN’s Archive at UCLouvain’s Hoover Chair of Economic and Social Ethics, 3 Place Montesquieu, 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

From a European to a worldwide network. By 2004, 20% of the online subscribers and 25% of BIEN’s life members were from outside Europe. Pressure therefore increased to turn BIEN from a European into a worldwide network. The development of internet communication and of low-cost air travel made this option more realistic. And in January 2004, President Lula signed into law Senator Eduardo Suplicy’s proposal for a “basic citizenship income” for all Brazilians. This finished convincing the sceptics who thought that an Unconditional basic income could only make sense in European countries with a developed welfare state. At the September 2004 congress in Barcelona, BIEN’s executive committee proposed to change the name of the network from “Basic Income European Network” to “Basic Income Earth Network”. This proposal was adopted by BIEN’s General Assembly on 20 September 2004.

Structuring the movement. The newly elected committee undertook to modify and expand the statutes (until then no more than a single page), a new version of which was approved by the General Assembly in 2008. Owing to the growth of the network, the size of the executive committee had to increase, with the managing of the website gaining in importance. The committee of the expanded network was successively co-chaired or chaired by Guy Standing and Eduardo Suplicy (2004-2008), Ingrid van Niekerk (2008-2014), Karl Widerquist (2008-2017), Louise Haagh (2014-2020) and Sarath Davala (2020-). An Advisory Board that includes all past committee members is chaired by Philippe Van Parijs (2004-). In May 2016, the position of general manager was created, the incumbent of which is not elected by the General Assembly but appointed by the Executive Committee. Malcolm Torry has held this position since its creation. In 2016, the network was officialized as an international non-profit organization (AISBL) under Belgian law and two years later turned into a charitable incorporated organization (CIO) under British law, with its official seat moved from Brussels to London, and the statutes amended accordingly.

From biennial to annual congresses. As a result of becoming a worldwide network, BIEN started recognizing national networks outside Europe as affiliates and decided in 2004 to start alternating non-European and European locations for the congress. In 2016, given the increasing popularity of the idea of basic income across the world, it decided to start organizing a congress every year instead of every second year. The Basic Income Earth Network met in the following places:

  1. Capetown, ZA (University of Capetown, 3-4 November 2006, convenor: Ingrid van Niekerk)
  2. Dublin, IE (University College, Dublin, 21-22 June 2008, convenors: Sean Healy & Brigid Reynold)
  3. Sao Paulo, BR (Universidade de São Paulo, 30 June-2 July 2010, convenors: Eduardo Suplicy & Fabio Waltenberg)
  4. Ottobrunn, DE (Wolf-Ferrari Haus, 14-16 September 2012, convenor: Dorothee Schulte-Basta)
  5. Montreal, CA (MacGill University, 27-29 June 2014, convenors: Jurgen De Wispelaere & Daniel Weinstock)
  6. Seoul, KR (Sogang University, 7-9 July 2016, convenor: Hyosang Ahn)
  7. Lisbon, PT (Lisbon School of Economics, 26-27 September 2017, convenor: Roberto Merrill)
  8. Tampere, FI (University of Tampere, 24-26 July 2018, convenor: Jurgen De Wispelaere)
  9. Hyderabad, IN (NALSAR University, 23-26 August 2019, convenor: Sarath Davala)

[20. Brisbane, AU (University of Queensland, 28-30 September 2020, convenors: Troy Henderson & Greg Marston): postponed to 2022 because of the covid19 pandemic]

21. Glasgow, UK (Online, 18-21 August 2021, convenor: Mike Danson)

Providing enthusiasm, imagination, mutual understanding and tenacity keep feeding the worldwide basic income movement, this is only the beginning of BIEN’s history.

Philippe Van Parijs