India: First National Conference on Universal Basic Income

India: First National Conference on Universal Basic Income

On March 29-30th 2017, the India Network for Basic Income (INBI) and Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA Bharat) held the first national conference on universal basic income (UBI) in India. During the conference a series of panel discussions and lectures were held, debating and exploring a range of issues concerning basic income in India. The two-day conference was held at the India International Center in New Delhi.

The conference comes as basic income proposals in India have increased in popularity. For example, this year India’s annual Economic Survey included an entire chapter on the prospects of a universal basic income in India.  India’s finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, presented the survey which describes the state of the economy from the previous year, and its prospects for the future.  The chapter on basic income was authored by Arvind Subramanian, the Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India. To read more about the economic survey, see Basic Income News coverage here.

Below are a few of the lectures and discussions from the conference that were presented in English. To see the full range of lectures at the conference, see INBI’s YouTube channel here.


Renana Jhabvala – Purpose and Direction

Jhabvala spoke as an associate of the SEWA. She spoke about the results of some of the unconditional basic income pilot projects in India.


Arvind Subramanian – Inaugural Address

Subramanian is the Chief Economic Advisor at the Ministry of Finance. In this recorded speech, he delivered the inaugural address for the conference, in which he outlined the three most attractive features on UBI in his eyes: 1) Universality, 2) Unconditionality, and 3) Agency.  He also argued that UBI in India could only be made affordable if it were to replace at least some existing welfare measures.


Haseeb Drabu – Opening remarks

Drabu is the Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir regions in India. In this speech, he explored the ‘fundamental’ question: can India pool all of its social spending to create a basic income for people below the poverty line?


Guy Standing – Justifying UBI

Standing is a Research Professor at SOAS, University at London and Co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). According to him, these are the three major justifications for UBI:1) Social justice (reduction of inequality), 2) Enhancing republican freedom and 3) Increasing the economic security of recipients.


Mathew Cherian – Starting With The Aged

Cherian is the CEO of HelpAge India. He made a case in favor of UBI for senior citizens, by addressing the question of whether senior citizens should be the first to receive a basic income.


Subir Gokarn – The Case for Basic Income

Gokarn is the Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund. Although he did not openly advocate a UBI, he did argue against categorically rejecting UBI.


Arvind Virmani – Closing Remarks

Virmani is the former Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India.  He argued that poverty alleviation has failed and what is needed is poverty elimination. He called for a UBI to replace the hundreds of poverty alleviation schemes at work in India.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

US / KENYA: New study published on results of basic income pilot in Kenya

US / KENYA: New study published on results of basic income pilot in Kenya

Village women. Credit to: Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times


GiveDirectly, a New York-based nonprofit, which activity has been covered in Basic Income News before, has initiated a pilot program in a rural village in Western Kenya, this past October. The organization recently published an internal analysis of the pilot program, in a first attempt to process the results of a GiveDirectly basic income project. The results will set the tone for future programs and influence basic income policy making moving forward.


The Pilot Program
The cash transfers are made via mobile phone to the village residents. Each of the 95 participants received 2,280 shillings (about US$22) every month to save or spend however they see fit.  Participants are all guaranteed this income for the next 12 years. Before GiveDirectly began the payments, many people in the village were living on less than US$0.75 a day; afterwards, no one was. GiveDirectly’s analysis claimed that “for 45% of the village’s residents, the first month’s basic income payment was the largest amount of money they’d ever had.”


The Results

The organization recently published the qualitative results of the first study of the pilot program. The research was conducted through follow-up call center-based phone surveys, as well as small focus group conversations. The survey asked about the biggest difference the money has made in their lives. Some of their answers are below:

  • “I will be getting transfers that will enable me to pay medical bills for my condition and also buy other things. Since I went for checkup after receiving the transfer, my health situation has improved and I am able to go about my business without much stress.” Grace, 68.
  • “Since I have been able to improve on my business, I have gotten income to help me meet my daily expenses and also buy enough food for my children.” Diana, 33.
  • “The biggest difference in my daily life is that I can have 3 meals in a day.” Dorcus, 87.

The survey also asked how the money was spent.

  • “I spent the entire transfer received from GiveDirectly to purchase a fishing net and a floater.” Erick, 40.
  • “I spent the money received from GiveDirectly to buy clean water, food, soap, and used most of the amount to pay school fees.” Fredrick, 70.
  • “I spent most of the money I received from GiveDirectly on buying a goat since I want to buy livestock. I also bought food for my household.” Patrick, 38.
  • “I spent the money received from GiveDirectly to purchase food and kept most of the transfer as savings.” Milka, 44.

Do recipients of basic income stop working? This question has been at the center of the basic income debate despite much of the evidence indicating that recipients don’t stop working, and don’t spend money on alcohol. Here are some of their responses:

  • “I feel I need to work harder and engage in other income-generating activities to get more money.” Samson, 70.
  • Yes, receiving the payments has changed my feeling towards work since I really want to finish my driving course and immediately look for employment.” Fredrick Odhiambo Awino, 28.
  • “I will not be working since I am old and sickly. I will just wait for the transfers.” Jael, 73.
  • “I will still continue with my small business and charcoal burning since the family needs the extra income to enable us to meet all our expenses without borrowing from relatives each time.” Norah, 30.
Villagers. Photo: Credit Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Villagers. Photo: Credit Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times

Another survey question asked about how the money will affect recipients’ decisions or attitudes around entrepreneurship or other risk taking, like migrating to look for work. GiveDirectly stated that “So far, seven recipients have indicated that they had plans to or had left the village to look for some form of work. On entrepreneurship, some recipients plan to use the cash transfers to expand existing businesses or start new ones, while others think they haven’t received enough money to start anything meaningful.”

  • “There is a time I was selling maize, buying and selling but it collapsed but for now I know I will revive it because during that time we had a drought and so we consumed the maize.” Mixed gender focus group respondent.
  • “I want to start a small ‘omena’ (small fish) business.” Caroline, 28.
  • “I want to start a second-hand clothes selling business.” Millicent, 33.
  • “Personally, I desire to start a business but it’s not easy to start one here. For example, if we do the same business, it gets difficult to get customers. We have to fight for the few that are available. We are not able to do business in far places. If you start one you can only do it within the village next to your house. Getting the capital is also difficult but we would wish to start businesses.” Women’s focus group respondent.

Another question was whether recipients would pool some of their money toward shared projects like building a well or repairing roads. GiveDirectly’s analysis said, “when we first explained the program, one of the community leaders suggested this at the village meeting, and it’s obviously on people’s minds, but we haven’t yet seen any large projects launched as a result.” This question is especially salient because not everyone in the village is receiving the basic income grant. In a New York Times article about this pilot program, Annie Lowry noted that this has been a source of tension in the village: “by giving money to some but not all, the organization had unwittingly strained the social fabric of some of these tight-knit tribal communities.” However, community projects that benefit everyone could ease this tension. One of the focus group respondents indicated that such projects are certain in the future:

  • “We just started receiving this cash just the other day and after doing a few things with it in the house here, we can think of coming together as a village and we agree that we pool some cash together that we can use to do something, at the moment we have not started, but we will.”


GiveDirectly widely considers these results to be encouraging.  It plans to continue fundraising to expand the number of recipients, and launch a full study later this year. This pilot is part of a larger plan in Kenya to offer similar unconditional transfers to people in 200 villages.


More information at:

Annie Lowry, “The future of not working”, The New York Times, February 23rd 2017

Catherine Cheney, “Early insights from the first field test of universal basic income”, Devex, February 27th 2017

David Evans, “Do the Poor Waste Transfers on Booze and Cigarettes? No”, The World Bank, May 27th 2014

Joe Huston and Caroline Teti, “What it’s like to receive a basic income”, GiveDirectly, February 23rd 2017

Kate McFarland, “US / KENYA: Charity GiveDirectly announces initial basic income pilot study”, Basic Income News, September 25th 2016

United States (San Francisco): Sean Kline speaks at sold out event on Universal Basic Income

On January 23rd, Sean Kline, Director of the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, spoke at a Questions & Answers event where he discussed his ideas for universal basic income (UBI) pilots in San Francisco, as well as other cities across the United States.

Kline was hosted by Jim Pugh, the co-director of the Universal Income Project, and they spoke at the Covo center in San Francisco.

“We’re at a galvanizing moment for cities to think more creatively about how they can generate revenue for really progressive policies,” Kline said. His speech focused on implementing basic income projects in cities in part because, “there’s a real appetite to do more at the city level.”

His focus at the city level is in part a response to the criticism of basic income projects: that they represent what Kline called a “Trojan horse that would or could eliminate other crucial social safety nets either in one fell swoop or through a paper cuts.”

Kline responded to this critique that we should not view UBI as a wholesale transformative policy that would immediately replace other social welfare programs. Instead, he spoke about a variety of “incremental paths” for UBI that could start small and grow. In this way, UBI could build on already existing programs that are already functioning and accepted.

To illustrate this point, Kline cited the Alaskan Citizen’s Dividend and the related Pension Fund in Norway, which both give a portion of oil profits back to the people. He said that even social security is a form of an income grant for a portion of the population. Kline claimed that a transition to basic income could build on these already-established programs and grow. “There are a lot of things that don’t have to sound quite so radical that we can build on,” he said.

Kline is currently searching for funding sources to implement city-level basic income experiments. The specifics of his proposals and their funding possibilities are still being considered and negotiated with potential funders.  Currently, the Universal Income Project is funded  by the Roosevelt Institute and the Citizens Engagement Laboratory.

More information at:

Universal Basic Income Facebook page

CANADA: Over 10,000 people have signed to support Basic Income

CANADA: Over 10,000 people have signed to support Basic Income

(Image credit: Basic Income Canada Network)

The Basic Income Canada Network (BICN) has just passed their goal of signing 10,000 people who support a basic income guarantee in Canada.

This milestone marks the culmination of over a year of collecting supporters. BICN now looks toward its next milestone: reaching the 15,000-person threshold.

BICN is a non-profit organization affiliated to BIEN that advocates for basic income in Canada. It does so by publishing regular news stories as well as annual reports about basic income developments. BICN also disseminates resources for getting involved in the struggle for basic income, in addition to educational sources informing about relevant debates and issues. A central part of this organization is its ongoing petition, open to everyone, which calls for the implementation of a basic income in Canada.

BICN’s website was launched in August 2015, when this counter for supporters of basic income began. It has taken BICN almost a year and a half to reach 10,000 supporters, 8,000 of which coming in the last nine months. The 10,000 person threshold was surpassed on December 13th.

This event marks the latest in a series of positive developments for basic income in Canada. Recently, on December 7th, a unanimous decision was reached by the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, Canada, to “pursue a partnership with the federal government for the establishment of a universal basic income pilot project.” Also, in Ontario, the regional government is moving forward with plans to test a universal basic income. These plans began in early 2016, when Ontario tasked Hugh Segal with an outline paper concerning the C$25m pilot project.  The project is set to start this spring.


More information at:

Ashifa Kassam, “Ontario pilot project puts universal basic income to the test”, The Guardian, October 28th 2016