UBI Pilot in Catalonia

BIEN Co-Founder Guy Standing, President of Catalonia Pere Aragonès, Minister of the Presidency Laura Vilagrà, and Head of the Office of the Pilot Plan to Implement Universal Basic Income Sergi Raventós, Barcelona, November, 2021

The President and Government of Catalonia, part of Spain encompassing seven million people and centered on Barcelona, have announced that there will be a two-year basic income pilot starting next year, providing an unconditional monthly payment to 5,000 individuals.

In November 2020, BIEN co-founder Guy Standing had a long private meeting with the President in his offices about the objectives of the pilot and then held meetings with the officials in charge of designing it, including Sergi Reventós, head of the Office of the Pilot Plan to Implement Universal Basic Income. That office is charged with designing, implementing, and evaluating the Pilot. Raventós hopes the design will be accomplished in 2022 and implementation begun before the end of that year, with evaluation in 2025.  The 5,000 participants in the Pilot will be a sample representative of the Catalan social and economic fabric. Funding for the Pilot has been allocated.

Guy Standing will continue to provide technical advice, based on the principles laid out in his recent article, “Basic Income Pilots: Uses, Limitations and Design Principles” in Basic Income Studies, 2021; 16(1) pp 75-99. In a separate event linked to the initiative organized by La Caixa Foundation in the Palau Macaya, he advocated making a link between the commons and basic income. 

A further public event to discuss design issues has been scheduled by the Federation of Catalan Social Action Organization with the Barcelona City Council to take place on December 20.  Guy Standing will be the keynote speaker. Most importantly, the pilot is seen as a way of showing how Catalonia and Spain could move away from the highly targeted, means-tested social assistance schemes that have fared badly during the Covid pandemic.   

Universal Basic Income Pilot for Artists in Ireland

Ireland inspires artists, credit for photo: K. Mitch Hodge

The Programme for Government published by Ireland’s new Coalition Government on 27th June, 2020 committed to the introduction of a universal basic income pilot within the lifetime of the Government. Subsequently, the Report of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce relied on this commitment when it put forward its proposals for a 3-year Basic Income pilot for workers in the Arts sector.

In Ireland’s Budget for 2022, Government included an allocation of €25m for a Basic Income scheme for artists.  While details are sketchy, it would appear that this is intended to fund some 2,000 artists. As this pilot scheme won’t start paying out money till April 2022, it should be possible to pay €325 to 2,000 artists in 2022 within the budget figure of €25m.  This is the payment level recommended in the Report of the Arts and Culture Recovery Taskforce.

This initiative is most welcome as it progresses the discussion and piloting of Basic Income in Ireland.  As well as this, artists are appropriate subjects for the pilot.  They have suffered a great deal during the pandemic and should be supported through these difficult times. 

However, Ireland can’t afford to pay a Basic Income of €325 per week to the whole population; it is only realistic to pay a maximum of around €208 as outlined by Social Justice Ireland in its recent study on this issue. To resolve this dilemma and ensure the initiative really is a Universal Basic Income pilot, Government could pay these artists €208 as a Basic Income and an additional €117 as an Artists Supplement. 

It can be expected that UBI would have two kinds of impact:

  • Activity, e.g. entrepreneurial, increased/decreased output;
  • Wellness, e.g. financial security, stress levels.

Regarding the ‘Activity’ impact, it is very likely that the evaluation of the pilot will show that most artists in the pilot don’t watch TV all day.  Rather, they will be seen to engage in more artistic activity; they may even generate more market income; they are likely to report that their work is of higher quality; they develop their skills etc.  Consequently, if a BI of €325 per week doesn’t elicit a lazy response, surely €208 would not either! 

Faced with the above hypothetical findings, I think that those who believe that welfare rates should be kept low so as to push people into working would have to accept the conclusion that there is little to fear from the possibility of laziness with a BI of €208 per week for the whole adult population.

Regarding the ‘Wellness’ impact, it is most likely that the evaluation findings will be positive, e.g. greater financial security, less stress etc.  It may be reasonable to speculate that this impact would be reduced if the BI payment were reduced.   However, the skeptics on UBI are most interested in the labour market response.  They are likely to be less interested in the wellness findings and less concerned if these benefits were reduced somewhat when faced with a BI of €208 per week.

Social Justice Ireland will continue to monitor this initiative as it develops.

The Denver Basic Income Project: A Privately Funded Initiative Focused on the Homeless

The Denver Basic Income Project (DBIC) is the first major effort in the United States to study the impact of providing guaranteed income to individuals who are unhoused, as a means of accelerating the path toward stability. It was founded by Denver Colorado businessman and philanthropist Mark Donovan and seeded with $500,000 capital gains he made by selling his Tesla stock. DBIC has already raised an additional $3.3M on top of this to provide unconditional basic income to people experiencing homelessness in Denver, accompanied by a rigorous randomized control trial run by Denver University’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research.

Donovan believes it is not necessary to wait for the government to come in and fix things, as Tesla has shown in the automotive industry. What is needed is to offer better solutions. Direct cash is increasingly seen as one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and economic inequality. DBIP  plans to replicate its program in 20 more cities in 2022 and 200 in 2023.

Donovan recounts that by 2020 he was already familiar with the powerful efficacy of guaranteed income. Then he started to do a deeper dive into the literature and found astounding results like those of the New Leaf Project in Vancouver and the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. He believes the current social safety net in the United States is not only highly inefficient and ineffective, it is also demeaning and disrespectful to those it seeks to serve. The number of people who are unhoused is growing despite the enormous resources dedicated to this challenge. The concept of basic income appealed to him, as it acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inequalities built into our economic systems while also making a powerful statement of trust and respect to individuals it serves. It is a direct investment in people that has the power to not only alleviate enormous human suffering but also unleash massive amounts of latent potential. It also has the potential to be an enormous stimulus to the economy.

Welsh Government Commits to Basic Income Pilot

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of the Government of Wales (center), Beth Winter, Labor MP for Cynon Valley, and Guy Standing, co-president of BIEN, at the Labor Party Conference

There will be a basic income experiment in Wales in 2022. The First Minister in the devolved Welsh government, Mark Drakeford, has announced his full commitment to rolling it out in the Spring. Following an opinion poll showing that 69% of Welsh people wanted their government to conduct a basic income pilot, the Future Generations Commission arranged for a background report to be prepared, and at an event at the Labor Party Conference in the seaside town of Brighton, Mark Drakeford said he intended to devote the remainder of his time in office to advancing basic income in Wales. He was sharing the platform with Guy Standing, co-president of BIEN, who is advising the Government and Commission on the design of the proposed experiment. Coordinating the plans is the Taskforce for Tackling Poverty in the Welsh Government, headed by Sarah King. 

At present, the main proposal is to give basic incomes to “care leavers”, that is, young people emerging into adulthood from care homes. If restricted to those, it would not be a proper basic income pilot, which requires everybody within a geographic community to be covered. In effect, it would be a test of an individual, unconditional modest cash transfer. Given the UK government’s rigid adherence to strict conditional means-tested benefits, which is causing widespread deprivation and a regime of sanctions, the proposed pilot could still prove valuable. However, discussions on the design, sampling and duration are still ongoing. Everything depends on resource constraints.

Opinion: Time for a citizen dividend

Opinion: Time for a citizen dividend

Guaranteed income programs are popping up everywhere in the US. It is time to expand beyond local pilot programs and embrace a nationwide Citizen Dividend, an annual distribution of a share of business profits to every American, to beat back against rising economic inequality and hold true to our deepest American values.

Three years ago, perhaps the only widely known American guaranteed income program was the Alaska Permanent Fund which doles out annual payments to every Alaskan funded from state oil and gas revenue. In recent years, pilot programs giving $500 – $1,000 a month to low-income residents have been implemented or proposed in Stockton, California; Jackson, Mississippi; Phoenix; Pittsburgh; and Chicago.  

Perhaps the simplest, widest-reaching, and easiest to implement form of guaranteed income we could adopt would be the Citizen Dividend. The debate around guaranteed income often boils down to two fundamental questions: Who deserves the income and how can we pay for them?  With a national Citizen Dividend, we answer both of those questions clearly and compellingly. 

First, who deserves this income?  We all do. No business in this country turns a profit without using wealth we all own together – our natural resources; our societal resources like our roads, our public safety, and our education system; and our inherited systems like our Constitution and our courts. Every citizen has an equal ownership stake in these forms of collective wealth. Therefore, each American deserves some slice of the profits realized by their use. Sure, individual hard work, talent, and good strategy help bring about business success.  Imagine though trying to create value without energy, roads, courts, and an educated workforce. It would be downright impossible. 

Second, how do pay for this income? A Citizen Dividend is funded through one form of our collective prosperity – business profits. Businesses should retain 95% of their profits to invest in growth, return wealth to private shareholders, and pay the government for the services our society needs (e.g. taxes). But 5% of those profits should be returned to each American in recognition of the collective wealth that was used to create those profits.

Easy to understand and clear in its funding, a Citizen Dividend would have a meaningful positive impact on the lives of Americans and on the fabric of our economy. Using 2015 estimates on business net income, a Citizen Dividend could return $570 to each American every year – or over $2,200 for a family of four. This payment – which amounts to nearly two months of rent or food for the median American family – could stave off some of the harshest impacts of rising inequality.  But perhaps more importantly, it would challenge the false narrative that profit is created merely through individual action and that wealth should be hoarded by those who have the opportunity to do so. Instead, it would reinforce a deeper American story, that we are our best as a nation when we come together across all our differences to blaze a trail toward a common future. 

A Citizen Dividend breathes life into the spirit of our nation’s first motto – E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.  It is time we recognize what truly belongs to every American and be bold in our willingness to build an economy that reflects our best values. It is time for a Citizen Dividend.   

Brian C. Johnson is the CEO of Equality Illinois and the author of Our Fair Share: How One Small Change Can Create a More EquiBrian C. Johnson has served in education and advocacy, community organizing, and political activism at local and national levels for two decades, dedicated to the American promise of fairness for all. He’s been featured on CNN and in The Washington PostUSA Today, and The New York Times. Johnson currently serves as the CEO of Equality Illinois, one of the nation’s most successful LGBTQ civil rights organizations. He lives with his husband and their daughter in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.

A new project from FRIBIS: Universal Basic Income and Gender

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:

https://www.fribis.uni-freiburg.de/en/project/ubig/
https://www.fribis.uni-freiburg.de/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/grassroot_feminist_economic_thought_paper.pdf

Endless thanks to Enno Schmidt for his valuable contribution to this article.

Serkan Simsir