By Malcolm Torry, director of the UK’s Citizen’s Income Trust (CIT) and co-secretary of BIEN

There has been much discussion, at congresses and elsewhere, as to what should be included in the definition of Basic Income. In order to inform the ongoing debate, I have studied the definitions to be found on the websites of organisations affiliated to BIEN, and subsequently the BIEN news team has contacted affiliated organisations in order to check and if necessary amend the information.

We can conclude from the survey that all of the definitions of BI employed by BIEN affiliates describe it as unconditional, nonwithdrawable, individual, and a right of citizenship, although not necessarily in those precise words. They either say or assume that the payment will be regular and of a consistent amount, i.e., weekly or monthly, not annually, and not variable. Some state that the BI will be a right of citizenship, or of legal residence, and others might be taken to assume this.

But there are differences when it comes to the levels at which BI will be paid. In the table at the end of this article, if the definition given on the website does not mention the amount of the BI, then the second column in the table is empty. Where a definition on the website does mention the level of BI, only the relevant part or parts of the definition are quoted.


Definitions of BI are quite diverse in relation to the amount to be paid.

  • Some do not mention the issue, suggesting that the amount to be paid is not integral to the definition;
  • Some say that a democratic process will be used to decide the amount;
  • One mentions a particular amount (Southern Africa);
  • And some offer a description of the kind of life that the BI will be expected to fund (‘subsistence’, ‘dignity’, ‘participation’, ‘poverty line’) in relation to the national context, but without specifying the relevant level of BI.

If BIEN is to be the global body to which national organisations will affiliate, then any definition that BIEN offers will need to include all of the national definitions. This means that it will mention unconditionality, non-withdrawability, and a BI’s individual basis; it might wish to say that BI would be a regular and invariable but uprate-able payment; and it might use ‘rights’ language (in relation to legal residence or citizenship).

In relation to the levels at which BIs should be paid, there are two options that would include all of the national definitions: a) the definition should not mention the amount at all; b) the definition should say that in each country the normal democratic process will determine the levels of BIs and their funding mechanisms.


Table: BIEN affiliated organisations’ statements about the BI levels included in their definitions of Basic Income

EUROPE: Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBI-Europe) ‘UBI is universal, individual, unconditional, and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and participation in society.’

SOUTHERN AFRICA: 1. Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII), and 2. UBI Africa 1.               ‘Amount: The grant should be no less than US$15.00 per person per month on introduction, [*which in 2013 was sufficient to meet peoples’ basic needs in the region], and should be inflation indexed.’

2. ‘A wide variety of Basic Income proposals are circulating today. They differ along many other dimensions, including in the amounts of the Basic Income, the source of funding, the nature and size of reductions in other transfers that might accompany it, and so on.’

ARGENTINA: Red Argentina de Ingreso Ciudadano
AUSTRALIA: Basic Income Guarantee Australia (BIGA) ‘A Universal Basic Income (Basic Income Guarantee) is an unconditional cash payment to individuals sufficient to meet basic needs (Universal Basic Income New Zealand, 2003).’
AUSTRIA: Netzwerk Grundeinkommen und sozialer Zusammenhalt – B.I.E.N. Austria


‘Existenzsichernd: die zur Verfügung gestellte Summe soll ein bescheidenes, aber dem Standard der  Gesellschaft entsprechendes Leben, die Teilhabe an allem, was in dieser Gesellschaft zu einem normalen Leben gehört, ermöglichen.’

[Ensuring existence: The sum made available is intended to make possible a life that is modest, but corresponding to the standards of society, and participation in everything that belongs to a normal life in this society.]

BELGIUM: Belgian Network for Basic Income


‘Ce revenu de base vise à permettre à chacun et chacune de mener une vie digne et de participer à la vie en société sous toutes ses formes.’

[This basic income is intended to enable each and every individual to lead a dignified life and to participate fully in society.]

BRAZIL: Rede Brasileira de Renda Básica de Cidadania


A RBC é uma renda suficiente para que uma pessoa possa prover as suas necessidades vitais, como alimentação, saúde, educação e outras, que sera paga pelo governo a toda e qualquer pessoa residente no país, inclusive as estrangeiras residentes há cinco anos ou mais no Brasil, não importa sua origem, raça, sexo, idade, condição civil ou mesmo socioeconômica.’

[The Basic Citizenship Income (CBR) is a sufficient income for a person to provide for his or her vital needs, such as food, health, education and other necessities, which will be paid by the government to all persons residing in the country, … regardless of their origin, race, gender, age, civil status or even socioeconomic status.]

CANADA: Basic Income Canada Network / Réseau canadien pour le revenu garanti ‘A basic income guarantee (BIG) ensures everyone an income sufficient to meet basic needs and live with dignity, regardless of work status.’
CANADA: Quebec – Revenue de base Quebec (RBQ)


‘Le revenu de base est un revenu versé par une communauté politique à tous ses membres sur une base individuelle, sans condition ou contrepartie, dont le montant et le financement sont déterminés démocratiquement.

Un revenu de base garantit ainsi un niveau de vie décent à tous et il reste cumulable avec tout revenu perçu par ailleurs.’

[A Basic income is an income paid by a political community to all of its members on an individual basis, without condition or withdrawal, of which the amount and the funding method are determined democratically.A basic income thus guarantees a decent standard of living for all and to it can be added income from other sources.]


Affiliated in July 2016

Cheng Furui: 对基本收入定义,我们的网站和BIEN网站的一样。但是,关于我们所做的研究和推广,会更加注重社会分红,基于中国的实际情况。网站原文如下:“我们关注当前世界范围的“基本收入”运动,但基于中国公有资产占社会总资产的相当比例的国情,我们力促“社会分红/基本收入”的研究与教育活动。”

Regarding basic income, our website and BIEN is the same. But, regarding our research and what we promote, we emphasize the social dividend, considering China’s actual circumstances. The website originally states: “Our attention is on the modern global movement for the Basic Income, but considering the proportion of China’s publicly owned resources, we are pushing for a social dividend/basic income in our research and education activities.

[Translation: Tyler Prochazka]

DENMARK: BIEN Denmark (Borgerlønsbevægelsen)


‚Hvor stor skal basisindkomsten være? I princippet kan den have en hvilken som helst størrelse, som man i et samfund kan blive enige om, men den mest almindelige holdning er, at den skal være på et niveau, som gør det muligt at leve af den, om end på et beskedent niveau. Hvis man har en defineret fattigdomsgrænse i et samfund kan dette være et vejledende niveau for en basisindkomst. Basisindkomsten kan gradueres, så der er lavere satser for børn, for unge osv.‘

[How big should the basic income be? In principle, it can have any size, as agreed by a country, but the most common view is that it should be at a level that makes it possible to live on, albeit at a modest level. If you have a defined poverty line in a society then that can be a guide for the level of basic income. Basic Income can be of different amounts, so there would be lower rates for children, young people, etc.]

FINLAND: BIEN Finland – Suomen perustuloverkosto ‘According to the model of BIEN Finland, basic income is paid monthly for every member of society with no strings attached. Basic income would simplify the complex jungle of the current social security system, would facilitate the reconciliation of work and social security, and fill the gaps in the social protection. Income increase by UBI for people with high and middle income would be reclaimed from their earned income taxes. For implementation of basic income, there are several different models.’ * [English translation provided by Jouko Hemmi]
FRANCE: Mouvement Français pour un revenu de base


‘Le revenu de base est un droit inaliénable, inconditionnel, cumulable avec d’autres revenus, distribué par une communauté politique à tous ses membres, de la naissance à la mort, sur base individuelle, sans contrôle des ressources ni exigence de contrepartie, dont le montant et le financement sont ajustés démocratiquement.’

[Basic income is an inalienable, unconditional right, cumulative with other income, distributed by a political community to all its members, from birth to death, on an individual basis, without control of resources or counterpart requirement, of which the amount and funding mechanism are adjusted democratically.]

GERMANY: Netzwerk Grundeinkommen ‚Ein Grundeinkommen ist ein Einkommen, das eine politische Gemeinschaft bedingungslos jedem ihrer Mitglieder gewährt. Es soll die Existenz sichern und gesellschaftliche Teilhabe ermöglichen, …‘

[A basic income is an income which a political community unconditionally grants to each of its members. It shouldensure subsistence and enable social participation …]

INDIA: India Network for Basic Income (INBI)


‘Basic Income is modest income paid by government unconditionally to all its citizens. It is paid monthly to every individual, irrespective of their social and economic status, i.e., without any means test or work requirement. The basic principle behind this idea is that every citizen is entitled to a basic income, as a matter of right, so as to meet her / his basic material requirements of life.’
IRELAND: Basic Income Ireland


‘A basic income is a payment from the state to every resident on an individual basis, without any means test or work requirement.

It would be sufficient to live a frugal but decent lifestyle without supplementary income from paid work.’

ITALY: Bin Italia (Basic Income Network Italy) [I can’t find a definition]





Basic income is the idea that everyone has the unconditional right to an income to live on.

MEXICO: Red Mexicana Ingreso Ciudadano Universal [Website not available]
NETHERLANDS: Vereniging Basisinkomen


‚Het bedrag is hoog genoeg voor een menswaardig bestaan

Hoog genoeg : Het bedrag moet zorgen voor een fatsoenlijke levensstandaard, die aan de sociale en culturele normen voldoet in het betrokken land. Het moet materiële armoede te voorkomen en bieden de mogelijkheid om te participeren in de samenleving en in waardigheid te leven.‘

[The amount is high enough for a decent life:High enough: The amount should provide a decent standard of living according to social and cultural norms prevailing in the country concerned in order to avoid material poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and live in dignity.]

Adriaan Planken, VBi secretaris a.i. adds: ‘UBI is universal, individual, unconditional, and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and participation in society.’

NEW ZEALAND: Basic Income New Zealand Incorporated (BINZ)


‘A basic income is an individual income paid to all legal residents as of right without means test or work requirement. … the government and the public together decide how much it will be. BINZ does not promote any particular solution. Additional funding can be nothing at all for an income-neutral basic income where each household receives the same total income after tax as it does now. It can be moderately redistributive like the examples shown in the handbook published on the BINZ website that substantially reduce poverty by redistributing about 2% of national income. Or it can be any other greater or lesser amount.’
NORWAY: Borgerlønn BIEN Norge


‚En universell, individuell og ubetinget inntekt som er høy nok til å gi hver og en av oss et verdig liv, uavhengig av arbeidsstatus.‘

[A universal, individual and unconditional income that is high enough to give each of us a dignified life, regardless of employment status.]

PORTUGAL: Rendimento Básico


‘O Rendimento Básico Incondicional é uma prestação atribuída a cada cidadão, independentemente da sua situação financeira, familiar ou profissional, e suficiente para permitir uma vida com dignidade.

Um RBI é:
– Universal – não discrimina ninguém, todos o recebem
– Incondicional – um direito para todos, sem burocracias
– Individual – garante autonomia às pessoas em situação vulnerável
– Suficiente – para viver com dignidade’

[Unconditional Basic Income is a benefit attributed to each citizen, regardless of their financial situation, family or professional, and sufficient to allow a life with dignity.An RBI is:

– Universal – does not discriminate against anyone, everyone

– Unconditional – a right for all without bureaucracies

– Individual – guarantees autonomy for people in vulnerable situation

– Enough – to live with dignity]

SCOTLAND: Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland ‘A basic income is a fixed amount of money paid to citizens which never decreases or disappears no matter the circumstances of that citizen. For example, unemployed, low wage, and rich people of the same age-bracket (i.e. not a child or a pensioner) would all receive the same basic level of state support. Children, adults, and pensioners would be provided with different levels of basic income. The objective of a basic income is to alleviate poverty caused by low wages and the benefits trap.’
SLOVENIA: Sekcija za promocijo UTD v Sloveniji [I couldn’t find a definition]
SOUTH KOREA: Basic Income Korean Network (BIKN)


따라서 기본소득은 보편적 복지이자 그 이상입니다. 모든 구성원의 적절한 삶을 보장한다는 점에서 보편적 복지이고, 단순한 재분배정책이 아니라 사회적 생태적 전환의 기초가 된다는 점에서 이행전략입니다. 기본소득은 정의상으로는 매우 단순하지만 필요성, 정당성, 지향성의 측면에서는 복합적이고 심층적입니다.

Therefore, basic income is more than universal welfare. It is a universal welfare in that it guarantees the proper life of all members, and is a transition strategy in that it is the basis of social ecological transformation, not a simple redistribution policy. Basic income is by definition fairly simple, but complex and deep in terms of necessity, legitimacy, and direction.

SPAIN: Red Renta Basica


‘La renta básica puede ser definida de distintas formas. En la web la Red Renta Básica ha utilizado esta definición: la renta básica es un ingreso pagado por el estado, como derecho de ciudadanía, a cada miembro de pleno derecho o residente de la sociedad incluso si no quiere trabajar de forma remunerada, sin tomar en consideración si es rico o pobre o, dicho de otra forma, independientemente de cuáles puedan ser las otras posibles fuentes de renta, y sin importar con quien conviva. En menos palabras: una renta básica es una asignación monetaria pública incondicional a toda la población.’

[Basic income can be defined in different ways. On the web the Basic Income Network has used this definition: basic income is an income paid by the state, as a right of citizenship, to each full member or resident of the society even if they do not want to work in a paid way, without taking In consideration whether he is rich or poor or, in other words, regardless of what the other possible sources of income may be, and regardless of who he lives with. In less words: a basic income is an unconditional public monetary allocation to the entire population.]

SWITZERLAND: BIEN Switzerland ‘The unconditional basic income (UBI) is a monthly payment by a public agency, to each individual, of a sum of money high enough to cover basic needs and enable participation in social life, as a monthly, lifelong rent. It is the concretization of a basic human right.’
TAIWAN: Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan
UNITED KINGDOM: Citizen’s Income Trust


‘A Citizen’s Income is

‘Unconditional’: A Citizen’s Income would vary with age, but there would be no other conditions: so everyone of the same age would receive the same Citizen’s Income, whatever their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.

‘Automatic’: Someone’s Citizen’s Income would be paid weekly or monthly, automatically.

‘Nonwithdrawable’: Citizen’s Incomes would not be means-tested. If someone’s earnings or wealth increased, then their Citizen’s Income would not change.

‘Individual’: Citizen’s Incomes would be paid on an individual basis, and not on the basis of a couple or household.

‘As a right of citizenship’: Everybody legally resident in the UK would receive a Citizen’s Income, subject to a minimum period of legal residency in the UK, and continuing residency for most of the year.’

UNITED STATES: U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG)


‘The Basic Income gives every citizen a check for the full basic income every month, and taxes his or her earned income, so that nearly everyone both pays taxes and receives a basic income. … A partial basic income guarantee is any income guarantee set at a level that is less than enough to meet a person’s basic needs.’

[* added following circulation of the original summary to affiliated organisations]

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