FRANCE: the Senate gets into the swing of things

FRANCE: the Senate gets into the swing of things

The French Senate rejected a motion calling on the government to introduce basic income, but it still decided to form a parliamentary commission aiming at investigating the idea.

Last week was a busy week for basic income in the French Senate. The National Assembly had already debated the topic of basic income several times in the past few months (amendment to the Budget Bill of 2016 and Amendment to the National Digital Republic); it is now the Senate’s turn to look deeper into the question of a basic income implementation  in France.

Jean Desessard, Senator from the Green Party, who had contributed to the organization of a debate in the Senate last year on this same topic, tabled a draft resolution on May 19th that called on the government “to take the necessary steps to introduce a basic income”. This political move lead to almost two hours of debate (see the video here) among Senators from left to right, most of whom declared that they were open to this idea yet needed to dig further.

Most MPs admitted that basic income was an interesting issue that needed to be explored in more of its details, potentially with the funding of feasibility studies and pilot-projects. Only a few MPs were more cautious, fearing that basic income would discourage people to work and would promote laziness.

The resolution was eventually rejected by a large margin. In fact, only the Ecologist group (parliamentary group composed with MPs from the Green parties: EELV and Ecologistes!, and one MP from the Socialist party), and one Conservative MP voted in favor. However, the fact that the Socialist group and the Centrists decided to abstain signalled that they did not oppose the topic in principle, but rather the actual proposal of committing the government to implement it directly. They thus showed that they were open to the debate and willing to study further the possibilities on the topic.

In fact, the Socialist group decided in parallel to support the initiative of its member Daniel Percheron, who proposed to form a parliamentary ‘mission of information’ that will enable MPs to work on “the interest and possible forms of implementation of a basic income in France”. Within this framework, 27 Senators from different political groups will debate the topic and present their results by the Fall. The French Movement for a Basic Income was consulted on the 9th of June on this matter.

Given all these political moves, not only in the Senate but also in the National Assembly as well as from some members of the current government, we can now say that basic income has reached a milestone in the public debate, and will certainly be a key topic in the upcoming presidential and general elections to take place next year.

Picture CC Pierre Metivier


FRANCE: Socialist MP Delphine Batho tables an amendment on basic income

FRANCE: Socialist MP Delphine Batho tables an amendment on basic income

Socialist Member of Parliament and former Minister Delphine Batho just tabled an amendment to the National Assembly asking the government to make a report on the feasibility of basic income in the context of digital revolution.

Update 18th January: MP Frédéric Lefebvre and several conservatives colleagues have tabled another amendment with the same wording.

Basic income is slowly but surely entering the political scene. On January 11th 2016, Delphine Batho, MP from the Socialist Party and former Minister of Justice and Ecology, submitted an amendment to a bill on digital technology, asking the government to make a report on different approaches to basic income and its economic feasibility.

This amendment (pdf) calls for a detailed report on this topic by no later than June 2016, which would include “a macro-economic feasibility study, a comparative impact study on different approaches to basic income, as well as an analysis on the experiments on the subject that are currently going on, on a local and an international scale”.

This interesting move happened only few days after an important report submitted to the Ministry for Employment made an important case for basic income. As part of 20 recommendations presented to the Ministry, the report recommended studying the feasibility of basic income in France by carrying out a study, in order to plan pilot-projects in the country. It created a lot of ripples in the media and Ms Batho’s amendment directly refers to it.

The French Movement for a Basic Income (MFRB) supports Delphine Batho’s initiative and calls for broad and cross-party support for it.

Mrs Batho’s support for basic income is not new. In a colloquium organized in the Senate in May 2015, she defended the idea, stating that “our welfare and State-financed system relies on 1945 capitalism and the thirty years of post-war economic growth. We now live in a different era and the system is now subject to changes, due more specifically to this new digital era, but also to the ecological crisis, the depletion of natural resources, etc. We thus need to think about a new organizational and welfare system”.  

The Socialist MP emphasized the importance of studying the possibility of a basic income in France, in a context where it could “remunerate ‘unpaid work’ and all tasks that create value, especially through digital tools”. She based her arguments on the “digital revolution and the changes it implies for the labour market”, as new technologies contribute to doing more and more tasks, and consequently replace more and more jobs in France and worldwide.

This new development is the latest in a series of positive signals for basic income in France. Last month in the Aquitaine Region, the left coalition won the election with a proposal for a basic income pilot in their platform, and last November a right-wing MP Frédéric Lefebvre unsuccessfully proposed a similar amendment in another legislative dossier.

Last but not least, MP Lefebvre revealed on twitter this week that he has had a discussion with the Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron, and the latter agreed to work on basic income.

On the down side, a new poll shows that only 35% of the French would support basic income. This is a lower score than a previous poll in May 2015 (60% in favour). However this may be explained by the different way of presenting the idea to respondents.

This could thus be a turning point for basic income in France, as more and more decision-makers show an interest in the issue.

Credit picture CC Parti socialiste

FRANCE: Aquitaine region to conduct unconditional minimum income pilot

FRANCE: Aquitaine region to conduct unconditional minimum income pilot

As part of an electoral alliance, the Socialists and the Greens in the French region of Aquitaine committed to carry out a pilot with an unconditional minimum income, as a step in the direction of a basic income. They won the elections, now it is time to deliver.

French regional elections held this month received wide coverage by the international press because of the dramatic rise of the far right party Front National. Meanwhile, an interesting development the basic income movement went largely unnoticed. In the south-western region of Aquitaine, one of thirteen mainland French regions, major strides towards a basic income have been made.

Five months ago, the Aquitaine Regional Council – the elected regional parliament – adopted a motion to conduct pilots to test the implementation of an “unconditional RSA”. The Revenu de Solidarité Active (Active Solidarity Income), or RSA, is the means-tested national minimum income. The unconditional RSA would entail scrapping the work requirement, and would make the grant less discriminatory and less bureaucratic. A recent study shows that the RSA uptake is only slightly over half of the eligible beneficiaries.

While this is not an unconditional basic income, it is a major move in that direction. The motion notes that it is a “first step towards a universal basic income” (read the French text here). At the time, the Council had a left-wing majority, headed by the Socialist Party and including the Greens. The initiator of the motion, Green councilor Martine Alcorta, suggested that the pilots should be based on a proposal drafted last March by the French Movement for Basic Income, an affiliate of BIEN.

However, the fate of the basic income pilots depended on the results of the regional elections. Basic income supporters feared that if the left-wing coalition lost the region, the whole project might have been compromised. In the second round of elections on December 13, the Greens and the Socialists merged their lists to beat the right-wing coalition led by the Republicans, and the National Front, running separately. Just a few days before, the two left-wing parties agreed to renew their commitment to unconditional RSA pilots.

This was not an easy task, as the Socialist Alain Rousset, top candidate in the electoral roll and outgoing president of the Regional Council, had been strongly opposed to the pilots. The inclusion of the unconditional RSA experiment in the program means that measures that are closer to a basic income are gaining ground among other political parties. The Greens and the young anti-austerity formation New Deal already support a universal basic income.

Now that the left alliance won the elections, they are to go ahead with the pilots. Martine Alcorta was re-elected in the Regional Council, and the Greens are entitled to two vice-presidents as part of the deal with the Socialists.

If the newly elected regional councilors put their words into actions, a feasibility study will be conducted to come up with different designs for local pilots. The French Movement for a Basic Income has already offered its services to help the Aquitaine Regional Council with the project.


French Movement for a Basic Income, “PS et EELV s’entendent sur le revenu de base en Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes [Socialists and Greens in Aquitaine strike a deal on basic income],” December 12, 2015.

Stanislas Jourdan, “French Regional Council of Aquitaine to assess feasibility of basic income pilots,” Basic Income News, July 9, 2015.

French MP wants basic income to replace all welfare: is he right?

French MP wants basic income to replace all welfare: is he right?

In the past few months, basic income has been widely debated in the French public arena and mainstream media are starting to pay attention to it. This trend has been influenced by the announcement of pilot projects in the Netherlands and Finland, and the upcoming referendum in Switzerland.

Recently, there have been important developments in the national political arena too. On November 13, an amendment to the 2016 Budget Law proposing the adoption of a basic income was debated in the National Assembly, one of the two houses of Parliament. The proposal was introduced by Frédéric Lefebvre, MP from the right-wing party Les Républicains.  The amendment was not approved, but the chairman of the Finance Commission, Gilles Carrez, approved the creation of a multi-party parliamentary working group on the issue.

This constitutes a real improvement in terms of political discussions on this topic. However, BIEN French chapter, the French Movement for Basic Income (FMBI), has expressed concern about the proposed measure. The amendment promotes the introduction of a universal income for all French citizens – but not other residents – that would replace all welfare benefits. All unemployment and housing benefits, as well as student allowances and old-age pensions, would subsequently be suppressed. (You can read the amendment in French here.)

Most people who depend on their social benefits would be strongly affected. The amendment seems to have been designed to reduce public debt, without taking into consideration the negative impact it could have on the welfare system. The proposed basic income does not sit well with FMBI’s stance. A basic income should not undermine the welfare system, but reinforce it. It should also promote more freedom of choice.

The amendment mentions recent developments in Finland. In the Finnish case too, there are concerns that the government might be experimenting with a basic income to replace other social benefits and reduce public spending. As far as the French proposal goes, it does not consider the implications for citizens and residents, especially those in the most vulnerable groups. It also fails to look at how the proposed basic income would enhance individual freedom of choice.

This is just the beginning of a serious political discussion. There is still a lot of work to do to develop proposals about the kind of basic income France should adopt. Yet, the fact that there is growing debate in all spheres of French society is a positive and welcome development.