FRANCE: Report to Prime Minister on welfare review paves the way for basic income

FRANCE: Report to Prime Minister on welfare review paves the way for basic income

A report commissioned by the government to Member of Parliament Christophe Sirugue recommends a complete revamp of the French welfare system. This could constitute a major stepping stone towards the introduction of a basic income.

In October 2015, the French government commissioned the Socialist MP Christophe Sirugue to conduct a review of the welfare system in France and formulate a proposal for improving and simplifying of the existing social benefits schemes.

The report entitled “Rethinking Social Minima” was released on April 18th and remitted to the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The report (available here) suggests three possible ways to revamp the welfare system:

  • Simplify the architecture of the existing system by implementing 12 measures to reduce its complexity and make it more fair.
  • Reduce the number of social minimas from ten to five by merging them.
  • Create a “common protection floor”, which would in effect be a complete revamp of the current system, by ultimately replacing all of the ten social minima.

The last proposal, which is favoured by the author of the report, is distinct from a universal basic income. In fact, although the report comprehensively reviews the idea of basic income and stresses some of its merits, it excludes its implementation for now. One of the arguments put forward is that basic income is a bigger issue than the scope of the report, which only aims at improving the welfare system while basic income is implicated with other societal debates, such as the changing nature of work.

The French Movement for Basic Income, which was consulted by MP Christophe Sirugue, notes three main points of progress in the conclusions of the report:

  • Opening the minimum income scheme to people from 18 to 25 years old.
  • Making social benefit payments automatic.
  • Partially individualizing the minimum income.

The Prime minister Manuel Valls welcomed the report, which is seen as “both pragmatic and ambitious” and has already asked all his ministers to work as fast as possible to implement the proposed reforms.

Confusing statement from the Prime Minister

In a confused statement on his Facebook page, Valls claimed that his government was opening the debate on “universal income” in order to implement it by 2018, while immediately making it clear he meant something very different than a universal basic income:

“Not a benefit paid to everyone including those who have sufficient income – it would be too costly and meaningless – but a targeted grant to all of those who really need it.”

“Unfortunately, the debate seems to be poorly started if the terms of the topic are not well defined,” responded the MFRB in a column in the newspaper Le Monde to clarify that universal basic income must indeed be universal, while debunking the idea that a full basic income was not affordable.

Many other media outlets and politicians – including Socialist MP Pascal Terrasse – reacted similarly, revealing once again the rapidly growing interest and support for the idea in France. Earlier this year, a report by the Digital Council also recommended running a basic income experiment.

Picture Credit CC Parti Socialiste

SWITZERLAND: 40% of the population set to vote favourably to basic income referendum

SWITZERLAND: 40% of the population set to vote favourably to basic income referendum

While the Swiss campaign for basic income is approaching the finish line before the national referendum on June 5th, an encouraging poll shows a rapidly growing level of support.

The polling company Tamedia asked 20,000 people about their voting intentions on the next referendum day (which includes 3 other issues along with basic income).

The results suggest that 33% of the population would certainly vote ‘yes’ while 7% would probably vote ‘yes’. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed oppose the referendum, with another 7% ‘rather’ opposed. According to the swiss campaign, the level of support has almost doubled since the last poll, conducted in early 2016.

In the French speaking parts of Switzerland, the level of support even reaches 50%.

“This is a very positive result showing a rapidly growing support for the idea in Switzerland. Everything remain possible. As many people are still uninformed, this means the Yes still has some room for progress,” BIEN-Switzerland’s Anna-Béa Duparc said.

However, only a small fraction of the population (3%) is yet undecided about the topic, making the last 5 weeks of the campaign very challenging.

SWITZERLAND: Lausanne City Council Adopts Motion For basic Income Pilot

SWITZERLAND: Lausanne City Council Adopts Motion For basic Income Pilot

Ahead of the national referendum taking place early in June, the Swiss city of Lausanne has adopted a motion to test a basic income and assess the effects of the policy.

Will Lausanne be the first city in Switzerland to test a basic income? It is possible. Last Tuesday, April 12th, the City Council took an important first step, when it adopted a motion (pdf) aimed at running a basic income experiment. This non legally-binding motion – which asks the Executive Council of the Municipality to implement a pilot – passed by a close margin (39 votes in favor versus 37 against, with 8 abstentions).

The motion has received significant support from the Green Party. It was originally tabled by Green Party member Laurent Rebeaud, who passed away in December. Léonore Porchet, President of the Lausanne Green Party, says, “Basic income offers a solid and securing social floor, as opposed to the fragile social safety net that we know today. The freedom provided by basic income encourages activity, social inclusion and innovation. In addition it values and support the ‘free’ work such as volunteer activities.”

Recent polls conducted in Switzerland bolster Porchet’s contention that a basic income would “encourage activity” rather than subsidize laziness, as some detractors fear. These polls conclude that only 2% of Swiss people would stop working if they had a basic income, while 22% would become entrepreneurs and 54% would take opportunities to improve their qualifications.

Although the Lausanne City Council’s motion remains vague about the specifics of the experiment, it proposes that it should be monitored in cooperation with the University of Lausanne, in a way similar to the basic income pilot planned for the Dutch city of Utrecht, which is being developed in collaboration with the University of Utrecht. Lausanne is a city of 130,000 inhabitants located in the French speaking region of Switzerland. However, the experiment would include only a sample of the population.

To run the experiment, the city will need financial support from the Canton and the Confederation. However, this is likely to be feasible, as it should not incur more costs than the existing budget for social benefits.

The Lausanne experiment’s main goal would be to assess how work incentives change depending on the conditions for receiving social benefits, as Porchet explains on the website of the local section of the Green Party.

Picture CC Alice

FRANCE: Economic, Social and Environmental Council will examine citizens’ income

FRANCE: Economic, Social and Environmental Council will examine citizens’ income

The French Republic’s main consultative body has announced that it will undertake an assessment of the potential economic impact of introducing a basic income in France.

The Economic, Social and Environmental Councils (CESE) announcement on March 22nd that it has launched a referral on basic income as a way to “re-start economic activity” marks another major political breakthrough for the basic income movement in France.

The CESE, sometimes called the “third assembly of the Republic,” is a consultative assembly composed of 233 members representing employers associations, trade unions and civil society groups from different social, economic and environmental areas.

The CESE usually publishes reports at the request of the French government or parliament, but it also has the authority to conduct self-initiative reports, as its economic activities section exercised in this instance.

“Maintaining strong economic demand – particularly through consumption – is an essential driver of stability for economic stakeholders.” This, the CESE explains on its website, is one of its main reasons for investigating basic income. Furthermore, the referral emphasizes the fact that high unemployment, poverty and precarity are undermining economic demand: “The fact that a significant – or even growing – part of the households are outside of the production (and therefore consumption) flows is a burden for our economy and a systemic threat.”

The CESE will undertake a two-step study. The first phase will explore the parameters of a basic income policy and provide an overview of the various experiments already carried out.

The second, more ambitious, phase will assess the potential consequences of  introducing a basic income on, among other factors, domestic consumption, different sectors of the economy, entrepreneurship, social inclusion, employment and demographics across the regions of France.

Once the rapporteurs of the study are designated, civil society stakeholders will be invited to contribute. The economic committee will then develop and present a report, which will be ultimately voted on in a plenary session by all CESE members. If accepted, the final report will then be presented to the prime minister, the National Assembly and the Senate.

This new development follows an increasing wave of interest towards basic income among the French political class for the past few months.

The French Movement for a Basic Income (MFRB) and the Association for the Introduction of an Existence Income (AIRE) have both declared they will take part in the consultation.

It usually takes three to nine months for the CESE to adopt a report, which means there is a chance that the report will be adopted ahead of the next parliamentary and presidential elections.

Picture CC Jacqueline Poggi

SWITZERLAND: Campaign Pledges 180k euros to create the World’s biggest poster

SWITZERLAND: Campaign Pledges 180k euros to create the World’s biggest poster

Ahead of the national referendum taking place next June 5th in Switzerland, basic income activists are aiming at creating the World’s biggest poster with basic income slogan on it. They need 180,000 to make it happen.

An historical campaign is happening in Switzerland right now. While the whole country will vote on basic income on June, an unprecedented level of campaign activities, events and press coverage are happening.

Now the famous Basel-based group Generation Grundeinkommen (Generation Basic Income) is taking the challenge to the next level by attempting to break the Guinness-World-Record for the largest poster on earth.

The activists want to print a massive 7500m2 poster (as large a soccer field), on which it will be written: “WHAT WOULD YOU WORK ON, IF FOR YOU YOUR INCOME WAS TAKEN CARE OF?”

Big questions deserve big poster

The poster aims at raising attention on basic income ahead of the referendum, explains the activist: “Good questions are the best answers. So let’s step forward asking the biggest question on Earth.”

The poster will be displayed in mid May. “We have several places in mind. One possible option is the Plain Palais in Geneva. This is a big space in the middle of the city with flea-markets and carnivals. It’s a space made for the people which suits our initiative.” The definite location will be communicated through their startnext-page.

Big questions also imply big numbers. To make this happen, the organisers are pledging 180,000 euros on a crowdfunding platform. Already 100,000 euros have been collected thanks to 600 donators. They still need to cover 40% of their funding need (105k euros) by April 24th. To make the operation financially less costly and environment-friendly, the poster material will be manufactured into carry-bags and backpack afterwards.

The campaigning group is experienced with large and successful street happenings. In 2013, they famously dumped 8 millions 5 pennies coins on the Parliament’s Square in Bern, which massively contributed to promoting basic income worldwide.

“Our Question deserves to get the biggest on earth. And all of you can carry it together with us. So get your question bag or your world record-backpack and help us to bring the biggest question on earth all over our lovely planet!”

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