The Italian basic income network BIN-Italy wrote an open letter to the new Prime Minister Mario Monti, and the new Minister for Labour and Social Policy Elsa Fornero. In this letter, BIN-Italia urges the Italian government to implement an unconditional guaranteed income. This is meant to avoid the risk of “default of citizenship rights”, and allow Italy to meet the European standard protection of human dignity. Below is an English translation of the letter (the Italian version is at: https://www.bin-italia.org/article.php?id=1612

Open letter to
the Prime Minister Mario Monti

and Minister for Labour and Social Policy
Prof. Elsa Fornero

“Please, Hurry up!”
Call for the introduction of an unconditional guaranteed income

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We would like to address you in the early stages of your new government in order to highlight the plight of social emergency prevailing in our country and ask you to find a solution to it.

The terms “emergency” and “exceptionality” have been both used referring to the international economic crisis that we are forced to face to the point that they brought about the choice of forming of a new government and implementing austere economic policies.

We believe that there is an even more urgent emergency to deal with. We refer to the social emergency that our country has been experiencing for years and that the crisis has turned into an “existential” emergency. Only a few data will be enough to show the necessity and urgency of implementing support measures in favour of citizens: 13.8 percent of Italy’s population lives in poverty (source: Caritas, October 2011), over the last year shoplifting basic necessities increased by 7.8 percent (for a total of 3 billion per year, according to the “Global Retail Theft Barometer” produced by the Centre for Retail Research in October 2011), in 2011 more than 2.5 million of young people are without jobs and excluded from education or training while in 2006 they were 824.000, only 1 out of 4 unemployed workers can find a job within a year and when they find it it is a precarious job, (data produced by Bank of Italy in November 2011). These few data, that you certainly know well, help us understand that we are facing an alarming situation of “social emergency” that needs an immediate response. Our warning cry is therefore turned to the new government to whom we loudly say “Please, Hurry up!”

We know very well your firm intention to steer the government’s decisions in the direction of the recommendations of the European Union. And referring to Europe, we can’t help but notice that the Council has been inviting Italy for years to fight against what it calls the “segmentation” of the labour market. Besides, in recent documents the Council has constantly requested Italy to implement measures for precarious and young people and adopt inclusive and universal forms of unemployment benefit and efficient income support measures. As a matter of fact, since 1992 the Council has invited us with Recommendation 92/441 to commit ourselves to adopt measures to guarantee minimum income in order to strengthen the European social model. As you certainly know Italy is one of the few countries in Europe not to have any measure of minimum income for those who are facing unemployment or economic difficulties. It is no accident that on the 3rd of October 2005 Eurostat indicated “Italy as one of the countries most at risk of poverty” identifying “42 percent of the total population” at risk of exclusion in the next fifteen or twenty years.

We all know that in many European countries when people lose their jobs they are granted unemployment benefits (in Italy only 17.2 percent of unemployed are granted such benefit, against 94.7 percent in the Netherlands, 91.8 percent in Belgium, 70.9 percent in France and 80 percent in Germany) and we also know that when this type of measure ends people are granted social assistance corresponding to the minimum income. They are not symbolic benefits as  the average amount is around 600 euros a month. We also know that in addition to those benefits our fellow European citizens in need are granted rent, transport and child allowances.

We are confident that the domestic and European scenario is quite clear to you, that you know better than us the figures of the crisis and its dramatic effects, that the Government chaired by you will assess, under the open method of coordination, both the measures implemented in the European welfare states and the best practices developed. We are also confident that you are surely aware that Italy is still lagging behind as regards the guaranteed minimum income schemes in force in other countries, so as to make us say that today we can be one of those countries that may even exceed and improve the effectiveness of the traditional forms of income support that are present in other European countries by implementing an unconditional guaranteed income.

We wish to emphasize once again that the existential condition of people in need is dramatic if not explosive, therefore we suggest that you immediately put the study of appropriate measures able to face the social emergency on the government’s agenda. We particularly refer here to an unconditional guaranteed income (a measure that goes beyond a generalized unemployment benefit as it should be granted to all workers who are not entitled to the unemployment benefit) as an instrument to affirm a new social right.

We know that many will argue that this measure is expensive, but we also know that not having such a measure will  actually cost much more both in economic terms and in terms of social cohesion. Let alone the cost we will pay in terms of guaranteeing rights, recognising full citizenship, impoverishing society as a whole.

Being part of “Europe” does not only imply a commitment to defending the common currency.  It especially implies the actual protection of those rights that let all citizens feel as part of a common project where their personal dignity is not trampled on and they are able to play an active role in the cultural, political and social life of both our country and Europe. Now is the time: an unconditional guaranteed income is feasible, necessary and essential.

The risk of “default of citizenship rights and dignity of the person” is at stake. For this reason we ask you to act as soon as possible. Therefore, we are saying “Please, Hurry up!”

We rely on your sensibility and we expect the guaranteed minimum income to become a reality for all Italian citizens as soon as possible.

Best regards,

Bin Italia

About Sandro Gobetti

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