Taiwan is making history by sending out a one-time universal cash payment of $6,000 New Taiwan dollars (NTD) to every citizen “young and old.” This is the first time the country has implemented such a policy, and it comes as a result of excess tax revenue of $450 billion NTD, much of which is coming from corporate taxes that have seen record-high profits. $140 billion NTD will be dedicated to the cash payments, with the remainder going towards improving labor and health insurance systems and providing funding for local governments.
UBI Taiwan hailed the move as a victory for Taiwanese citizens, as the payment is unconditional and universal, meaning that everyone in the country will receive it, regardless of income or other circumstances. They said it reflects the growing demand that a greater proportion of Taiwan’s growth is shared with average families.
“This is a huge victory for the basic income movement,” UBI Taiwan founder Tyler Prochazka said.
UBI Taiwan promotes unconditional basic income (UBI) in Taiwan. UBI is a policy that periodically sends out unconditional cash payments to every citizen in a country regardless of an individual’s income or job status.
The organization has noted the problem of stagnant wages for the last two decades in the country and the rising cost of housing. Through basic income payments, they argue that many Taiwanese could pursue better opportunities and improve their education.
“Unconditional cash transfers are an efficient way to provide an ‘economic vaccination’ to make sure that everyone can face the future in a healthy and happy manner,” said Jiakuan Su, the new chairman of UBI Taiwan.
Over the last few years, Taiwan’s economy has experienced record-breaking 6.45% GDP growth in 2021 and over 8.73% growth in exports in 2022. However, most people have not enjoyed the fruits of this economic growth, as a 104 Job Bank survey found that real wage growth was nearly zero in 2022 due to inflation. The universal cash payment is a way for everyone to have a small share in Taiwan’s economic success.
“With the rise of the pandemic over the last few years, Taiwan has experienced rapid changes in its economy and society,” Su said. “We have experienced directly why Taiwan needs a resilient social welfare system to protect each person’s economic security.”
Since the payment is equal to all taxpayers, it will have a progressive effect with a greater proportion of the refund going to low-income earners. There is some expectation that the cash payment could help stimulate the economy because low-income households are more likely to use the money to satisfy their essentials, such as food and housing, freeing up some additional discretionary money for recreational uses as well. A greater willingness to spend by average families could help smaller businesses that may have struggled since the pandemic.
Both political parties have agreed on the general outline of the proposal and the cash could be sent out as soon as February. A surprise has been that the plan appears to be a universal rebate of the revenue instead of a targeted one, which will make it easier for everyone to apply and reduce administrative costs and time. One area still under consideration is whether foreign taxpayers will receive any of the money.
Previous cash assistance schemes during the pandemic were targeted and a stimulus voucher was sent universally. The pandemic vouchers were limited in how they could be spent and had an expiration date, similar to the vouchers under former President Ma Ying-Jeou.
Members of the Kuomintang (KMT) and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) argued during the pandemic that cash should have been sent out instead of vouchers. At the time, the TPP held a news conference with UBI Taiwan to discuss the benefits of cash over vouchers. Many also complained that the targeted cash programs were difficult to receive because of the strict conditions.
Research by the World Bank later demonstrated that the simplicity of universal and unconditional cash payments during the pandemic increased access to the assistance and likely provided economic stimulus. Previous research showed a multiplier effect up to $2.6 for every dollar sent. Fears of saving the cash were largely overblown. For example, in over a dozen economies primarily in East Asia, 40 percent of the universal cash transfers during the pandemic were directly used for consumption.
Besides improved standard of living, research on basic income consistently shows improved mental health and trust in society. A meta-analysis of basic income policies looked at eight governmental reports as well as seven peer reviewed studies. They found there was justification that the alleviation of stress from financial instability could be a reason for improved mental health from basic income.
There have been criticisms of the current cash payment plan, including concerns about inflation. However, it is important to remember that this is surplus tax revenue that has already been collected and is not new money created by the central bank. An effect on inflation is just as likely if the government directly spends the money or if it is sent back to taxpayers.
Additionally, while it is true that Taiwan’s insurance systems require further reforms for sustainability, the vast majority of the surplus revenue is being used to shore up these systems and provide an emergency fund. A one time injection of funds is helpful but will not save these systems in the long run.
Previously, basic income advocates from UBI Taiwan have suggested that Taiwan could establish a sovereign wealth fund (SWF). Such a fund would act as a guarantee that Taiwanese could enjoy more equity in the growth of Taiwan’s economy even if wages remain stagnant. Excess revenue could be placed in the SWF and invested in the economy, with dividends from the SWF distributed back to the people each year, similar to the system in the US state of Alaska. The Alaska Permanent Fund sends out a yearly payment from the oil revenue generated in the state. In 2022, the universal payout reached a record high of $3,284 USD.
“I applaud the government’s decision to send the universal cash transfer and hope this establishes the precedent for Taiwan to consider making this a permanent policy,” Su said.
Prochazka furthered that by making this payment equal to all citizens, the government is taking the “first small step” towards ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are shared by all.
A convergence of various circumstances in the 21st century has made a Basic Income policy an achievable goal. Discussions and policy debates about Basic Income are taking place in countries across the world. We see this as an incredible opportunity for BIEN to strengthen its reach and solidify its role as a go-to-source on Basic Income.
BIEN’s mandate is to foster informed discussion about this topic throughout the world. For this, we should continue to provide reliable information and a rigorous interpretation of facts about Basic Income. We want to reach every politician, scholar, activist, and artist in every country. To do this we need hands, hearts, and funds.
Since 1986, BIEN has grown thanks to the incredible efforts of its volunteers. All BIEN Executive Committee members are dedicated volunteers. We need more volunteers. We also need paid staff.
We need more supporters, more members and affiliates across countries. We appeal to our members to encourage others to become members and affiliates of BIEN. We want to learn from our affiliates with whom we aim to have a strong and mutually empowering relationship.
We are initiating BIEN Hubs in different parts of the world – Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Europe. To support this effort, we have been working on fund-raising since 2021. In 2022, we secured a three-year grant from Mustardseed Trust to increase and strengthen BIEN’s presence at the global level. The grant essentially enables BIEN to employ paid staff to strengthen the Hubs. However, a big chunk of the grant is earmarked as a matching grant, realizable upon BIEN raising funds from other sources. In other words, for every Dollar we raise, Mustardseed Trust will give one additional Dollar. No amount is too small . Please donate any amount you can afford. Whatever you give, it doubles. Our immediate requirement is to raise 10,000 Dollars to appoint a Manager for BIEN Hub – Latin America.
BIEN is seeking funds for the first time in its 36 years history. We request you to support our efforts to strengthen Basic Income movement across the world. Please join hands and hearts with us.
There are rare moments when a combination of threatening circumstances leads to a wonderful transformation that only a short time before would have been unimaginable. This year may be such a moment. The Republic of Korea could set an example to the world that would bring happiness to millions of Koreans, and to many more around the world.
The risks if politicians are too cautious are enormous. Before COVID-19, the global economy was already heading towards a crisis. For over three decades, more and more of the income and wealth were going to the owners of property, financial, physical, and “intellectual”. The commons, belonging to everybody, were being converted into the source of profits and rents. A new class, the precariat, was growing everywhere, suffering from multiple forms of insecurity, drifting deeper into debt. It was incredibly high debt – private, corporate, and public – that made the global economy uniquely fragile.
Meanwhile, the public across the world were realizing the threat posed by global warming and destruction of the environment. Nothing was being done. If that continues, life for our children and grandchildren will be impaired. And it is clear that mistreatment of nature has helped make this an era of pandemics. The COVID-19 outbreak is the sixth pandemic this century.
In these circumstances, policies that merely try to go back to the old normal will not work. We need a bold transformative vision, one of courage, one designed to give people basic economic and social security, one designed to make the economy work for society and every citizen, not just for the bankers and plutocracy, and one designed to revive the commons and our natural environment.
Jae-Myung Lee is campaigning for the Presidency in the March 2022 presidential election with an exciting and feasible strategy, based on a promise of a basic income for every Korean man and woman, paid equally, as a right, without conditions. It is affordable. What is important at this stage is not to set some ideal amount, but to be on the road towards living in a society in which everybody has enough on which to survive, even if they experience personal setbacks.
What makes the proposal for a basic income so profound is that Jae-Myung Lee has come from a humble background, knowing poverty and insecurity from his childhood. He understands two fundamentals. First, the income of every Korean is due to the efforts of all those Koreans who lived beforehand, and it is based on the commons, nature and resources that make up the country, which belong to all Koreans. Those who have gained from taking the commons, most of all, the land, owe it to all Koreans to share some of the gains. A modest Land Value Tax, or levy, is justifiable and fair, and should help fund the basic income.
He also understands that pollution and global warming must be combated by a carbon tax or eco-taxes. The rich cause more pollution than the poor, the poor experience the bad effects more than the rich, including bad health from exposure to poisonous air. So, the solution must include carbon taxes to discourage global warming and polluting activities. But by themselves such taxes would hit the poor harder, because the tax would amount to more of their income.
The only sensible solution is to guarantee that the revenue from eco-taxes will be recycled through a Commons Capital Fund to help pay for the basic income, as Carbon Dividends. The poor will gain, while society will be on the road to fighting global warming and ecological decay. A basic income will also encourage more care work and ecological work, rather than resource-depleting labor. It will stimulate the desirable form of economic growth.
The second fundamental Jae-Myung Lee and his advisers have understood is that basic security is essential for rational decision-making and mental health. There cannot be individual or societal resilience against pandemics or economic crises unless there is basic security, so that people can behave rationally rather than in desperation. Experiments have shown that a basic income improves mental health and the ability to make better decisions, for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community.
In the Korean edition of my book Plunder of the Commons, I paid respect to the ancient Korean ethos of hongik ingan, which helped found Korea in 2,333 BC. It expresses a historically-grounded wisdom that Koreans should be re-teaching the world in an era of self-centered individualism and consumption-driven “success”. It conveys the sense of not just sharing in benefits of production but sharing in the preservation and reproduction of a sense of community, our sense of participation and our relationships in and with nature. A basic income would pay respect to that ethos. Jae-Myung Lee should be commended for having pioneered it in Gyeonggi Province, and would set the country on a new progressive road if elected President on March 9.
A Korean translation of this article was published by Pressian – a political news website headquartered in Seoul, South Korea.
On the 1st of December, the Comission of Fundamental Rights received the president and secretary of the Chilean Basic Income Network (Red Chilena de Ingreso Básico) Gabriela Cabaña and Cristóbal Ramos. The intervention included the justifications of basic income as a right that should be guaranteed in the new constitutional order, as part of a wider re-articulation of the state. It also included legal considerations and different ways in which Chile’s current legal order supports the constitutional consagration of a basic income. The presenters also answered questions from members of the Convention.
The constitutional convention will present a new constitution for national approval via referendum next year. You can watch the full intervention (in Spanish) here
The Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS), a network of several faculties at the University of Freiburg, has expanded with a new international team which focuses on basic income and gender issues, pulled together by Enno Schmidt. It uses as a starting point, the study by Prof. Toru Yamamori on the British women’s liberation movement in 1970’s, which was already calling for a UBI. According to Yamamori, grassroots feminist economic and political thought forms a basis of the demand for basic income, and the beginning of this can be seen during the women’s liberation movement in 1970’s Britain. For this reason, the relationship between grassroots feminist economic and political thought and basic income deserves to be re-examined, as this area has often been overlooked.
As a comprehensive research and design goal, the initiative seeks to examine grassroots feminist economic understanding and behavior and its potential in forming a new social contract with a particular focus on asic income. Based on this main principle, to amplify the voice of women in basic income research and design, the initiative seeks three objectives.. First, the further elaboration of Toru Yamamori’s study with final book publication, supported in particular by the collaboration of Barb Jacobson and Dr. Liz Fouksman in the UK. Secondly, a study and documentation on the question of women’s understanding of and behaviour in the economy and cooperation with members of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India under guidance of Renana Jhabvala. This will be supplemented by similar empirical research by Liz Fouksman in South Africa and Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada in Japan and by the experiences, data and results of basic income projects in Canada by Chloe Halpenny. As a third goal, enriched by the outputs of the other 2 goals, the initiative aims to embed their relevance in a potential new social contract for real gender equality. This is planned to be introduced as a pilot project, in a yet to be determined region in the USA under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and others to come. However, the team is also open to new influences and directions that arise during the collaboration, for example an additional focus on China.
For these purposes, the research programme will take place in 4 stages. The first phase will include a manifesto and presentations based on research which is already ongoing and which will start shortly. At this stage, the data, interviews and questionnaires of the participating researchers will be used. In the second phase, the focus will be on the collective reconstruction and articulation of “grassroots feminist economic and political thought”. At this stage, the experiences of relevant people in the research team will be used. In the third stage, the aim is to determine the positions of the above research in academic disciplines. In this sense, theoretical and anthropological studies will be carried out at this stage and the theoretical infrastructure of the outputs of the first two stages will be established. Based on the presentation and evaluation of the nature of women’s cooperation and work, and women’s perspectives on work and economy, this will significantly benefit from the experience of SEWA, and the Basic Income Pilot Projects for women in New Delhi and the 2009-10 pilot project in Madhya Pradesh. The fourth and final stage as envisaged so far, will include the implementation of UBI and new laws in a community in the USA.
In summary, the project aims to combine the introduction of a basic income and the creation of a new social contract from the point of view of women. The output that is intended to be reached at the end of the project is the draft of a new social contract. In other words, the main goal here is to present in a holistic way a draft programme for a society based on unconditional basic income, which is necessary to bring women to equal status with men.
The research team consists of Dr. Liz Fouksman, Chloe Halpenny, Prof. Dr. Kaori Katada, Prof. Dr. Toru Yamamori, Prof. Dr. Almaz Zelleke and as actors from social society Barb Jacobson and Renana Jhabvala. PhD student Jessika Schulz is organisational coordinator of the team on the part of FRIBIS.
Further information about the initiative and the project can be found at the following links: