Op-Ed; Opinion

French MP wants basic income to replace all welfare: is he right?

In the past few months, basic income has been widely debated in the French public arena and mainstream media are starting to pay attention to it. This trend has been influenced by the announcement of pilot projects in the Netherlands and Finland, and the upcoming referendum in Switzerland.

Recently, there have been important developments in the national political arena too. On November 13, an amendment to the 2016 Budget Law proposing the adoption of a basic income was debated in the National Assembly, one of the two houses of Parliament. The proposal was introduced by Frédéric Lefebvre, MP from the right-wing party Les Républicains.  The amendment was not approved, but the chairman of the Finance Commission, Gilles Carrez, approved the creation of a multi-party parliamentary working group on the issue.

This constitutes a real improvement in terms of political discussions on this topic. However, BIEN French chapter, the French Movement for Basic Income (FMBI), has expressed concern about the proposed measure. The amendment promotes the introduction of a universal income for all French citizens – but not other residents – that would replace all welfare benefits. All unemployment and housing benefits, as well as student allowances and old-age pensions, would subsequently be suppressed. (You can read the amendment in French here.)

Most people who depend on their social benefits would be strongly affected. The amendment seems to have been designed to reduce public debt, without taking into consideration the negative impact it could have on the welfare system. The proposed basic income does not sit well with FMBI’s stance. A basic income should not undermine the welfare system, but reinforce it. It should also promote more freedom of choice.

The amendment mentions recent developments in Finland. In the Finnish case too, there are concerns that the government might be experimenting with a basic income to replace other social benefits and reduce public spending. As far as the French proposal goes, it does not consider the implications for citizens and residents, especially those in the most vulnerable groups. It also fails to look at how the proposed basic income would enhance individual freedom of choice.

This is just the beginning of a serious political discussion. There is still a lot of work to do to develop proposals about the kind of basic income France should adopt. Yet, the fact that there is growing debate in all spheres of French society is a positive and welcome development.

About Nicole Teke

Nicole Teke has written 4 articles.

International Coordinator for the French Movement for Basic Income.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Christian Holata

    “The amendment seems to have been designed to reduce public debt.”

    Oh the idiocy … instead of implementing a cooperative monetary system and having a basic income as a natural consequence while getting rid of billions of ‪#‎bullshitjobs‬ and the infinite-growth paradigm we are holding on to a collapsing monetary system and try to implement a basic income within it.

    So we have a basic income a collapsing monetary system and idiots screaming for more cancerous growth and #bullshitjobs at the same time …

  • Joop Böhm

    Prevention is better than cure. Payments like doles, allowances and benefits to help people being in financial distress are no longer necessary. A UBI, high enough to lead an easy life, makes them superfluous.

    • Hornet

      @Joop Böhm
      You said, “A UBI, high enough to lead an easy life, ”

      Most people just exist, because there is not enough surplus of wealth under their control to motivate them to try something new. If the abundance (of wealth or resources or capital) is not there one can dream about many things but do none.

      About the way we organise our economics; It is a tragic fact that a simple pizza-shop, that any dummy can run, requires so much capital which is impossible to acquire in a life-time of employment as a pizza-maker or a burger-flipper. How do we expect “innovation” without pre-existing supply of sufficient wealth under the control of each individual?

      My question to all of you is , How do you universally define “high enough”?

      (I think the best answer so far is this article: https://basicincome.org/news/2015/10/basic-income-as-the-core-of-the-economy/ )

  • Joop Böhm

    Of course: As long as people don’t receive a UBI, there have to be solutions for financial aid.

  • Coc

    I don’t see the problem, of course unemployment benefits and most of the other benefits listed in the article should disappear once a decent unconditional basic income is in place. Of course the amount of the BI must be high enough to live with it only.

  • E. de Wit

    If the BI is high enough to be in place of all benefits and social welfare, it would also benefit the vulnerable groups. Because they will be without the stress of losing their benefits by f.e. making a single mistake with all the rules and paperwork required, or when the government decides to lower them. They won’t be forced anymore to work without pay as happens now. Many of them could increase their BI with small things or do volunteer work without risking fines and so feel more satisfied with their live.They would also loose the embarressement that often goes with receiving benefits. The ones who can’t because of illness are not worse off either, but maybe getting more help and company as their relatives and neighbours are also freed a bit from the rat race.

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