Roberto Ciccarelli (journalist, writer and member of the Basic Income Italy) has published an article on the proposal of the Italian government’s citizenship income.
In the article Ciccarelli talks about the poverty benefit misleadingly called a “citizenship income”, proposed by M5Star government. “What has been included in the soon-to-be-approved budget law” he says “is nothing but a sham and a deliberate misuse of words”. A real “citizenship income” is not tied to an obligation to work and has nothing to do with the “disciplining and punishment of beneficiaries which prominently feature in this M5S-Lega version of “workfare,” which apes the worst features of the Hartz IV German system”. “This benefit”, Ciccarelli writes, “doesn’t have any of the traits of universality, justice, equitability and unconditionality. It is neither a “universal income” nor a “citizenship income.” It is a workforce reintegration benefit of last resort for the unemployed, temporary workers and the poor, part of the authoritarian turn of the welfare state aimed at the creation of one or more parallel labor markets”. Ciccarelli also recalls that “They are talking about a new category of so-called “citizenship crime,” with up to six years in prison in case of fraud. The benefit will be tied to eight hours of unpaid work per week, to compulsory training. The duration of the benefit is also unclear and uncertain. It was said at first that after the first twelve months, the so-called “income” would gradually diminish to zero”. 

Ciccarelli also writes that “The idea of this “​income”— as repeatedly explained by Pasquale Tridico, an advisor to Di Maio — in just a short time, the person in “absolute poverty” will start buying “Italian products,” will get employed (in a permanent position, Tridico seems to imagine—not in small temporary jobs, as is most likely), and will contribute to the “wealth of the nation.””

The many problems of the M5S proposal, however, should not divert the attention from the political fight that has been waged over the past five years, a confrontation which has naturally intensified during the election campaign ahead of the latest 4th of March elections.

Ciccarelli also speaks about “the Democratic Party fighting against the proposal that has been (grossly misleadingly) called a “universal income.” Disingenuously pretending to believe the dishonest characterization of their own proposal by the Five Stars themselves, Renzi and his followers have spent at least four years attacking the very principle of an income that would be provided to all without asking them to do any work in return”.

What the M5S was actually proposing was not a universal income at all, but a significant extension of the “social inclusion income” (REI), a flagship proposal of the Democratic Party, approved during the 2013-2018 legislature.

Ciccarelli concludes that “A universal income is truly needed—this fact is absolutely clear. This so-called “citizenship income,” and other schemes such as the French “universal working income,” are marred by the tension between giving people the possibility to choose how they live their own life and an authoritarian discourse of penalties and obligations. Welfarism clashes with dirigism: one is not allowed to sit on the couch all day, nor to take any break between unpaid community work and a training course. This project shows clearly the present tendency to demand a lot from those who have little in order to justify granting them a benefit of last resort that will not work towards overcoming poverty, but towards making the regime of full precarious employment a reality.”


More information at:

Roberto Ciccarelli, “The linguistic scam of Italy’s ‘citizenship income’”, Basic Income Network Italia, October 24th 2018

(In Italian)

Roberto Ciccarelli, “La società della piena occupazione precaria: il “reddito” secondo Macron e Di Maio“, il manifesto, September 14th 2018


Reviewed by André Coelho

About Sandro Gobetti

Sandro Gobetti has written 30 articles.

Coordinator BIN Italy and social research