Op-Ed; Opinion

Netherlands: Thirty years of Basic Income

By Alexander de Roo

The discussion about basic income has changed completely.

Thirty years ago, it was a very principled debate. High unemployment. No future. Thus, give us a basic income, because the system cannot give us paid work. The counter argument was you must do paid work to receive an income. A basic income is morally unacceptable.

How different is the discussion now: when we go out and hand leaflets in the streets, 50 to 90 percent of the population takes our leaflets (50 percent in rich area’s and 90 percent in poor neighborhoods). The most common reaction is: basic income is a good idea, but how do you finance it? Who pays for it?

A very pragmatic discussion no longer principles banging against each another.

Alexander de Roo at BIEN's 30th Anniversary event (credit: Enno Schmidt)

Alexander de Roo at BIEN’s 30th Anniversary event (credit: Enno Schmidt)

The confidence in the present social system in The Netherlands is shaken compared to 30 years ago. Previously you got five years’ unemployment money and one could easily look for another job. Now even middle class people lose their well-paid job and after two years of unemployment money must ‘eat up’ (meaning sell) their own house to get social assistant money…. five million people have a steady, normal contract. That is ten percent less than ten years ago. Two million people have flexible contracts for bull-shit jobs, two million people live from social benefits (in different forms), one million people are independent professionals without access to unemployment money (ZZP or freelancers), the pension age keeps going up (now 67 years), while people above 50 years have zero (or realistically around 1 percent) changes on the labor market.

But the Netherlands is still one the five or ten richest countries in the world!

The two biggest newspapers held polls about basic income! About 40 – 44 percent comes out in favor. A reliable national poll measured 40 percent in favor, 45 percent against and 15 percent do not know. The majority of the electorate of the green and left parties are in favor. With the two right wing parties it is the opposite: their electorate is against: “we are working hard and do not want to pay a basic income for these (lazy) people that just want to have a basic income”.

Most interesting is that the voters for the Freedom party of Mister Wilders (our local Trump) are divided: 37 percent in favor and 46 percent against, 17 percent don’t know. Almost the same as the national average! Politically we must use this.

But the leaders of the green and left wing parties do not take up the issue of a basic income. They stick to repairing /amending the old social system. They think (and hope) the economy is recovering, unemployment will fall and then this basic income discussion will go away like it did around the year 2000.

But they are wrong we have now one year economic recovery: the result 12,000 new steady jobs and 78,000 flexible low-value jobs. The flexibility of the labor market keeps growing. We will turn back the clock on these flex jobs; providing more jobs is the answer of the green and left wing leaders.

Our answer is to increase our support for the basic income alternative in the upcoming national elections March 15, 2017. Around 60,000 people signed a petition for a basic income in 2018. Demonstrating that 800 € for every citizen in the Netherlands is easily affordable and that even 1,100 € is easily financed.

After the elections, we will work with respectable institutions to come up with a transition route from the present situation to a full basic income.

Annotation: A basic income of 800 € requires 10 billion € more per year then the present situation, 1,100 € will cost around 30 billion euro more. The present government (Conservatives + Social democrats) have cut the state expenditure with 30 billion € and raised indirect taxes with 16 billion euro’s: in total 56 billion in the last 4 years.

Alexander de Roo is a founder of BIEN in 1986, former BIEN treasurer (1986-2004), and now Chairman of the Dutch branch of BIEN.


About Guest Contributor

Guest has written 119 articles.

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.


  • X

    What I think is funny (or tragic) is that basic income advocates are all so naïve to think that the entire hugely ineffective, costly, ‘soft but hard’ industry that’s developed around people on benefit (and which provides quite comfortable incomes to those working in it), is going to give up their powerful, luxury positions, simply because they realize their current approach that -they benefit so nicely from- fails miserably.
    If you think these people mean well and work hard day in day out to get the number of unemployed down in a human way, forget about it and get informed if you dare.

  • Chuck

    People who oppose a basic income on moral grounds assume that full employment is more or less the rule. The economy, they assume, produces enough paid work that everyone can get a job, even if that job may not be well paying. And so it follows, by their logic, that anyone without a job somehow lacks the discipline and character necessary to obtain a job. In other words, they assume unemployment is your own fault. Automation is going to smash this moral argument to pieces and it’s going to happen fast. Automation is replacing jobs at an amazing rate already. Foxxcom fired more than half of their 110,000 factory workers this year and replaced them with robots. In my neighborhood in San Francisco California I see Uber and Google self-driving cars going up and down my street every day. Over three million people in the USA drive a vehicle for a living. They are soon going to be unemployed. Artificial intelligence is making all manner of professional work do-able with fewer employees. Soon, many, many people will be unable to find work, no matter how hard they look or how low a position they’ll take, and so the argument that they “lack character” and that it’s their own fault will die. It will be painful, though, because the belief that it’s your moral duty to work and that work is how you “earn” your right to live is so deeply ingrained in Western culture. Nothing short of a huge shock to our moral vision is in store. Hopefully we’ll be able to pull together and to see that not having a basic income is much, much more costly.

    • olma Nar

      The real effective and creative work happens when one works on his own with a goal to achieve his dream.Work to get paid achieves that payment, other outcomes are secondary.

  • Keith McNeill

    Who pays for it?” The best way to pay for universal basic income would be through taxes or fees charged on fossil fuels, as in carbon fee-and-dividend, as proposed by Dr. James E. Hansen, Citizens Climate Lobby and others

    • Al

      That’s easy

      Printing money.

      In a “normal” condition I’d be totally against UBI. But in a corrupt unlimited money printing and helicopter money world we live in I’m all in for UBI.

  • gary demos

    Although it is anecdotal information ….. I work in a service industry and most of the people I work with have at least 2 or more jobs. Trying to get health care through various means is a changing situation. Employer provided, Medicaid, Affordable Health Care, or none at all are situations they cycle through. A few have mentioned that their spouse’s employer provided health insurance but that is changing soon as it will no longer cover the spouse. I look forward to seeing more long term studies with segments of populations getting guaranteed income and how it plays out over longer (years) periods of time. Ideally people would feel free to pursue what they enjoy and excel at it. I don’t know that to be the case for the vast majority. Trying to discern what you would really enjoy is something that should be learned in the school system. That seems to be a large stumbling block for most I talk to. What do I really want to do? The concept of MOOCs seem to be a partial solution regarding cost and availability to anyone with internet access. The validation by employers is the next hurdle. Will they accept that source of education as readily as a traditional college degree?

  • Ok. We, in Navarra, see BIG as a foundation for a more EFFICIENT society. The upcoming next democratic society will have an increment on complexity and diversity, putting apart questions like aging or transformation on the knowledges that will need a totaly new system of accesing to that knowledge or training for new capacities, so to say a new “for life” educational system. And this is only one aspect of things to come. Other will be the possibility to sustain the deppelopement of activities considered “not commercial” but that makes culturally richer a society.
    It is necessery and perfectly possible to rebuild up the democratic social system on the ground of a Granted Basic Income including in the concept things like study grants or jubilation fees, etc.
    We think also that innovation is not a concept to apply only to technology, but also to the sociology that must apply in a efficient government, and that XIX century ideas are allready obsolete. So a godd government will be the one capable to program the obsolescence of this system, a system that is know also as “the Crisis”.

  • Rugienius Sagnes

    When people are too poor issues and trouble are more difficult to solve by government or Kingdom
    Nederlands are rich areas neveretheless crowded of people
    Each people need to buy food medics rent houses or flats get job for public or private enterprises or create they own activities to contribute at national economy
    That is why Basic Income is certainly a way to maintain and make things better in front of social economical issues

  • X

    First they hijack the term basic income, then set up a “basic income” experiment in such a way that it will fail, so that you can say “Oh, we’ve tried basic income back in 2017 and it didn’t work, so let’s not go that route” and then your job in the unemployment-industry is saved.

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