Christian Engström, “A concrete and financed proposal for basic income in Sweden”
Former MEP Christian Engström has written a “concrete proposal” for a basic income guarantee in Sweden. Originally published online only in Swedish, Engström’s paper is now available in English.
Christian Engström, a former Member of the European Parliament 2009-2014 for the Swedish Pirate Party, has prepared a detailed proposal for an unconditional guaranteed income of 900 EUR (8333 SEK) per month, tax-free, for every Swedish resident between the ages of 19 and 65.
The basic income would replace Sweden’s current social assistance programs, student aid, and unemployment benefits, but no other government-funded programs. Disability and sickness benefits, child benefits, and the state pension would remain in place.
Engström’s basic income guarantee is designed as a negative income tax rather than as a universal grant, with the amount of the grant tapering off as the recipient earns income. Specifically, Engström proposes a 33% income tax with a reduction of the basic income grant by the same amount. (For example, someone who makes 300 EUR would pay 100 EUR in income taxes, and see their basic income lowered by 100 EUR, but would still net 100 EUR.)
Engström proposes no increase in income taxes, and points out that 33% is Sweden’s current normal marginal tax rate for low- and middle-income earners.
The basic income grant would be financed in part through money saved on the social assistance programs to be replaced. The rest of the funds, according to Engström’s proposal, would come from eliminating certain industry-specific discounts on value-added tax (VAT), such as those enjoyed in the food and restaurant industry.
In presenting his specific plan, Engström is motivated by concerns about political feasibility. He states that, ultimately, he would prefer a higher level for the guaranteed minimum income–and that his “concrete” proposal might be seen as an initial step toward bigger and more refined variants of the basic income:
“I hope that in time we will see a basic income of maybe 1,100€ or more in Sweden. But it is not strictly necessary to start at such a high level. It is enough that the basic income is livable, and not lower than today’s social assistance benefits. Then we can introduce the new system, which is the big and complicated step. Once we have done that, and can see in practice how it works and what it costs, we can continue improving the basic income through the ordinary political process.”
To date, basic income has received little mainstream political support in Sweden — unlike neighboring Finland, where an experiment on the effects of an unconditional basic income will begin next year.
Read the details of Engström’s proposal in the full report, available here:
Christian Engström “Basic Income: A concrete and financed proposal for basic income in Sweden“.
Video of Engström presenting his proposal at Finland’s International Basic Income Seminar in Turku, August 2016.
Reviewed by Genevieve Shanahan
Stockholm photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Stina Stockholm