Over two thirds of Wales is in favour of a basic income trial in the country. The poll, carried out by Survation and commissioned by Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, included over a thousand respondents.
Ahead of the country’s general election in early May, Future Generations is pressuring the Welsh government towards implementing more progressive measures destined to protect the economic and labor interests of the younger generations of the country, which have been remarkably affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these policies they included a petition to start a basic income trial.
According to Howe, a basic income could be highly beneficial for the Welsh. Howe states that a basic income could successfully address the issues that the welfare stated has failed to tackle (increase in poverty, automation and unstable jobs). Howe claims that “a basic income could be that stronger safety net which keeps people from falling through the cracks of support now and in the future.”
The think tank Autonomy is working alongside Future Generations to make the basic income trial happen. Will Stronge, co-director of Autonomy, claims that is critical to provide financial security to everyone, especially in these times of crisis. “The time has come for a universal basic income in Wales”, Stronge demands.
Calls for basic income in Wales are not new and Future Generations and Autonomy are not the only ones demanding the implementation. In 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plaid Cymru, the biggest nationalist party in the country, called for an emergency UBI and, more recently, the party has expressed support towards a cultural basic income to support culture. On a local level, the councils of Swansea and Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) have passed motions in support of piloting the trial, while the leader of the council of Cardiff has expressed interest towards the measure.
In February 2019, then-Stockton Mayor Michael D. Tubbs launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (‘SEED’), a 24-month guaranteed income initiative, the first mayor-led initiative of the sort in the US. Two years later, the preliminary results from the first twelve months of the experiment (through to February 2020, before the pandemic) have been released and the key findings are positive with the guaranteed income reducing income volatility, enabling access to full-time work, improving mental health and allowing better control over one’s time and decisions.
Under the SEED program, 125 Stockton residents were randomly selected to receive $500 per month for two years with no conditions attached to the handout and limited eligibility criteria namely: being at least 18 years old, being a Stockton resident and living in a neighbourhood at or below the median income ($46,003 in Stockton). A control group of 200 individuals meeting those same criteria was also established for research purposes.
The experiment is funded with private donations including a $1 million grant from the Economic Security Project, an initiative that aims at “making the economy work again for all Americans” with a specific focus on guaranteed income and anti-monopoly action.
The program is being evaluated by two researchers, Dr. Stacia Martin-West of the University of Tennessee, and Dr. Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania under a ‘mixed-methods approach’ consisting in both a quantitative and qualitative analysis of data collected before and during the experiment. The data was collected through both surveys and in-person or group interviews (participation in the experiment was not conditional on participating in these interviews).
The experiment was designed in close cooperation with public authorities and community members to tailor it to local specificities (disbursement timing and mechanism for instance) and to build trust between recipients, control group members and SEED staff. This work was necessary to address initial concerns around the unconditional and guaranteed nature of the income (considered ‘too good to be true’) and the risk of loss of eligibility for other benefits (covered through specific work by the Economic Security Project).
The preliminary results show that recipients made rational decisions about the income they were receiving, mostly spending it on ‘necessities’ (food, utilities, auto care). The researchers also found positive spillover effects with recipients being able to assist people in their extended networks more. Recipients also faced less income volatility and, noticeably, reported being more able to face unexpected expenses with cash or a cash-equivalent than before.
The guaranteed income gave recipients more time to engage in meaningful activities (socialising, spending time with children). This, according to the researchers, highlights how “financial scarcity generates time scarcity”. Participants also reported improvements in mental health when members of the control group did not experience the same improvements. Participants also reported improvements in mental health compared to the baseline measures when members of the control group did not experience the same improvements.
Finally, the program also resulted in an increase in full-time employment. 28% of recipients had a full-time job at the beginning of the project. After a year that proportion had risen to 40% (in the control group the proportion only moved from 32% to 37%). Some individuals indicated that the guaranteed income allowed them time to train or complete a degree or simply gave them more confidence to apply for certain positions.
Reactions to the release of the study have been positive with the findings seen as further evidence that these programs do not remove incentives to work and that, as the researchers put it, “poverty results from a lack of cash, not of character” making cash transfers an effective way of addressing poverty (the researchers as well as Mayor Tubbs are quick to point out however that these cash transfers cannot be the only solution to the issues faced by residents of a city such as Stockton).
On the other hand some have pointed out that SEED remains a small-scale and relatively short experiment and have cautioned about drawing conclusions too rapidly from the study. Another limitation of the study is that tracking of expenses from the guaranteed income relied on recipients collaborating with the researchers (the income was transferred to a prepaid debit card to be used directly and through which researchers had access to spending records, or to be withdrawn as cash or to another account. In those cases, about 40% of the recipients, researchers had to conduct specific surveys). Finally, some critics have used the fact that the experiment was being privately funded to argue that basic income was too expensive for public authorities.
Regardless, these results are sure to add to the growing debate about basic income in the US. Other experiments are ongoing, and in June 2020, Michael Tubbs and the Economic Security Project founded Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of around 40 mayors across the US working on implementing guaranteed-income experiments in their cities.
Editor’s note: The use of the term ‘basic income’ for the sheme in Janggo Island does not correspond to BIEN’s definition of basic income, since it is paid not to all residents but to only participants in communal fish farming activities for 20 years, and paid not to individual but to household.
A forum took place on the meaning and issues of the basic rural income social experiment, which Gyeonggi Province plans to conduct in the second half of this year. Entitled, “The Meaning and Issues of the Community-centered Basic Income Social Experiment,” the first Rural Basic Income Policy Forum was held on the 29th of January and introduced cases and discussed India’s basic income experiment, distribution of shared assets in Boryeong, Chungcheongnam-do, and Jeju Island. The Hankyoreh Economic and Social Research Institute with the Gyeonggi-do Agricultural and Fisheries Promotion Agency, the Basic Income Korea Network, Lab 2050, the Korea University Institute of Government Studies, and the Korea Regional Development Foundation all participated in organizing the January event. Some of the presenters and debaters participated online.
Lessons from the Indian basic income experiment
Sarath Davala, the keynote speaker, is the architect of India’s basic income social experiment and chairman of the Basic Income District Network, which leads the discussion on basic income worldwide. He laid out the implications of basic income experiments conducted in India and Namibia.
Namibia and India conducted basic income experiments—in 2008 and 2011, respectively—during which Namibia paid USD 12 and India USD 4 per month to 2,000 people for a span of 12 months. “Contrary to many people’s expectations, people who received basic income did not become lazy. Start-ups and economic activity increased, new transportation facilities were opened, school attendance rates rose, household debt decreased, and other good things occurred. In Namibia, the consumption of alcohol remained unchanged,” Dr. Davala explained.
Dr. Davala also introduced changes in policies following basic income social experiments. “After the social experiment, the local government in India began providing cash allowances to all farmers proportional to their farmland area in 2018, and through this policy, the party won three-quarters of the local council. […] However, the program excluded sharecroppers and non-farmers and allowances were paid only to owners of land in rural areas, and basic income discussions focused mainly on ‘the excluded.’ […] The implications of the Indian outcomes on other basic income experiments is that one needs to follow the principle of individuality and avoid excluding anyone in the region.”
Dr. Davala emphasized the role of social experimentation in promoting social dialogue beyond the collection of evidence. “In the past, we did not conduct small-scale social experiments in advance before abolishing slavery or winning women’s suffrage. These policies were based on values, philosophy, and human rights. Obviously, the policy effect rationale is important, but the policy is not implemented only with evidence. In India, political movements took place after social experiments, and there was a close review and public discussion of what was better,” he said. Another aspect of the social experiment he emphasizes is that it triggered dialogue between the public and the media, experts, and political parties to discuss desirable alternatives. “In Korea, there have been experiments with things such as youth dividends in Seongnam City, a basic income for young people in Gyeonggi Province, and national disaster support funds amid the Corona crisis, which has attracted the attention of politicians and the public.”
Sea cucumber seeds become basic income for islanders
The forum also presented a case where a local community shares the profits generated from a shared asset. Kang Je-yoon, head of the Island Research Institute, explained how Janggo Island allocates the profits from collected seafood to the islanders. Janggo is a small island with 81 households and 200 residents and began allocating profits from sea cucumber farming grounds in 1993. In 2019, 11 million won (around USD 10,000) was paid annually to each household in basic income. Kang said, “Unlike other fisheries, sea cucumbers grow on their own when the residents sow seeds. There is nothing residents have to do with them until they are ready for harvesting. Residents of Janggo Island receive a basic income from sea cucumber farming, which requires minimal labor, and the same amount is allocated as labor income from collecting clams ten times over two months. “Since the village community provides a basic income and labor income together worth 20 million won per year (USD 19,000), Janggo Island residents earn equal and stable income, unlike residents of other islands, where large income gaps exist between those in the aquaculture industry and those who are not.
However, Janggo Island also went through a slow and painful process before residents received a consistent dividend. Initially, the fishing village fraternity rented out fishing grounds around Janggo Island to fish farmers, who paid rent to the village society. Director Kang said, “It is illegal to rent out fishing grounds, which no one owns, and beside that, the rent was 500,000 won a year, which was an absurdly low price for 1983. In 1983, the village’s newly appointed head persuaded residents to reclaim the fishing grounds, after which they managed the profits from the fishing grounds (now village property) for ten years, and gave out loans. After much controversy, the dividend first began in 1993, and residents’ complaints about fishing grounds profits subsided, and the community’s common interest in the fishing grounds increased the quality of management.” A fair distribution system supported the management of shared assets.
Kim Ja-kyung, an academic research professor at Jeju National University, who presented on the possibility of basic income through shared assets on Jeju Island, said, “Jeju Island has a tradition of distributing profits through communal operation of pastureland and fisheries. For example, one village harvests seaweed fusiforme and agar together and distributes them among the participants while allowing individuals to keep the collected seaweed for themselves. One hundred and one fishing village fraternities had their own unique customs and order.”
Recently, wind and wind power generation has been drawing greater attention as a new shared asset on Jeju. Professor Kim gave a wind farm in Haengwon-ri, Gujwa-eup, eastern Jeju Island as an example. “Six villages in Haengwon-ri receive part of their wind power generation profits and set aside the funds. […] There is always a possibility of conflict and disagreement in the village, which prevents certain people from arbitrarily exercising their decision-making authority.” There is still work left to be done to develop a system to distribute the new shared asset profits fairly.
Consideration of the impact of distribution system on residents
Lee Chang-han, director of the Korea Regional Development Foundation, which designed the basic income social experiment in rural areas in Gyeonggi Province, said the experiment’s primary purpose is to closely examine the impact of basic income on the local community. “Because of the name “basic rural income,” many people are confused whether it only benefits farmers. However, farmers in rural areas in Gyeonggi-do Province make up only about 16% of the total population. It is crucial how farmers and non-farmers interact in the same living space in these rural areas. Like Janggo Island, we will observe the impact of the distribution system on resident communities.”
Park Kyung-chul, a researcher at Chungnam Research Institute, said, “Since 2019, various local governments have introduced farmers’ allowances, and there has been a discussion on farmers’ basic income. […] However, since non-farmers are also, directly and indirectly, involved in agricultural activities in rural areas, and together they form local communities, expanding the scope of payments to all rural residents is the concept behind basic income.”
Lee Ji-eun, CEO of the Basic Income New Research Network, said, “The basic income social experiment in rural areas can be reevaluated in terms of climate justice.” She added, “We hope this experiment will lead to discussions on rediscovering ‘the commons’ (shared assets), discovering small sustainable economic models and revitalizing ecological feminism, reflecting the peculiarity of rural areas.”
Lee Won-jae, CEO of Lab2050, who headed the debate, said, “I think the basic income social experiment in Gyeonggi Province has a unique status, as does the basic income experiment in Finland…where the prime minister in power conducted a policy experiment. In Korea, the experiment is taking place when basic income is becoming a central political topic.” This means that it is an environment in which the country’s overall policy will follow the results of the social experiment.
For more information, check out Gyeonggi Rural Basic Income Social Experiment’s blog page: https://gg-rbip.medium.com/
Written by Yoon Hyeong-joong, visiting fellow at the Hankyoreh Economy and Society Research Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org Translated by Eunjae Shin, researcher at the Hankyoreh Economy and Society Research Institute, email@example.com Reviewed by Toru Yamamori, Academic Research Editor of BIEN
Photo: Credit: Janggo Island, South Korea, is experimenting on sharing dividends from sea cucumber farming grounds with its residents. Provided by Kang Je-yoon.
The Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath is seeking a post-doctoral research associate for a new programme of microsimulation research on Universal Basic Income (UBI).
The IPR is collaborating on research into UBI with the newly formed Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies by convening a Microsimulation Research Group, consisting of academics and civil society partners with interest and expertise in microsimulation studies of basic income schemes.
The Research Associate will conduct microsimulation research for the group and organise its collaborative activities, under the direction of Prof Nick Pearce, Director of the IPR. Expertise and experience in using microsimulation models such as EUROMOD is essential. The post is offered for two years in the first instance, with the possibility of extension in due course.
More and more people feel that universal basic income (UBI) could change our society for the better. But how can we make that happen? In Germany, Berlin-based association ‘Expedition Basic Income’ (Expedition Grundeinkommen) recently launched a large country-wide campaign to start a UBI experiment with 10,000 participants – financed by the state and academically companied. So far, more than 50,000 people have registered on the campaign website.
The initiative ‘Bring Basic Income To The State’ was launched by Expedition Basic Income (Expedition Grundeinkommen) at the end of February with a question to all German citizens, spread via the association’s website, mailings, partners within the German UBI community, social media, and the press:
Do you want your city or municipality to participate in a nation-wide UBI experiment?
Every German citizen can answer this question by registering on the association’s website. Wherever at least 1% of the population express their interest, the Expedition Basic Income is going to start local referenda to enable the cities and municipalities to participate. The totality of all ‘test cities’ can be thought of as a globally unique research laboratory on basic income.
Valuable insights on UBI via a scientific approach
According to the plans, 10,000 people in Germany are supposed to receive a monthly basic income of about 1,200 euros for three years, starting in 2023. For this experiment, the association is working with renowned research partners in Germany, including the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) and the Freiburg Institute for Basic Income Studies (FRIBIS), to analyse the effect, acceptance and feasibility of different variants of unconditional basic income, whereby also exploring empirical findings on UBI financing.
With the scientific findings and insights from the study, it will be much easier in the future to discuss the impacts of universal basic income on people and the community: Ideally, the question will no longer be if a basic income can be financed at all, but how this could be possible.
People power is the campaign’s key
The Expedition Basic Income was founded in 2019 by UBI advocates Joy Ponader and Laura Brämswig. Their mission is to initiate Germany’s first publicly financed UBI experiment together with all the people who are enthusiastic about or interested in basic income. The country-wide campaign is not their first endeavour; previously, Expedition Basic Income has launched similar initiatives in several federal states, including the country’s capital Berlin, where more than 30,000 people signed for a regional experiment in autumn 2020.
The citizens in Germany’s cities and municipalities are the campaign’s front and centre: In addition to the online call, local teams of volunteers will be formed in the cities and municipalities to autonomously organize the referenda. In co-creative participation processes, German citizens will also be involved in the experiment’s design. This approach is unparalleled: So far, most experiments have been initiated by the government or private institutions. The campaign of Expedition Basic Income is the first to initiate a publicly financed experiment using referenda.
In Russia, as in many other countries, social benefits do not always reach those who need them. The problem has existed for a long time, and during the pandemic the number of poor people has only increased.
In an article on 11 February 2021 in Forbes Russia “A New Contract: how to reduce poverty rate in Russia”, the Director and Resident Representative of the World Bank in Russia, Mr. Renaud Seligmann, analyzes the possibilities of introducing a “minimum guaranteed income” in Russia.
“A common solution to the problem could be the implementation of a minimum income program that would combine cash payments to recipients with other tools, primarily providing motivation to work… At the same time, monthly payments should provide a living wage for each family member… Such a program, based on the income needs assessment and family assets, can be quickly deployed on a national scale.”
According to the Federal State Statistics Service, a little more than 60% of the population receive various types of social support, but about 16% of the poor are not covered by any social programs at all. These flaws are due to the archaic nature of the state social protection system, as well as extremely backward and conservative means testing mechanisms. Many citizens do not have an elementary understanding of the types of social assistance. In the age of high technologies, other acute problems are highlighted – the level of information equipment, the lack of new methods of work, the imperfection of the means testing mechanisms used, the confusion of legislation in the social sphere, as well as the level of information literacy of the population.
Today at the federal level 3.2% of GDP is spent on social benefits. The World Bank provides the results of economic modeling based on Federal State Statistics Service data on the implementation of a phased program of minimum guaranteed income of citizens. The program would cost, according to their estimates, about 250 billion rubles, or 0.3% of GDP. Its introduction in the future will improve the situation and reduce, in their opinion, the scale of poverty by about 60%.
Although this is not a ‘basic income’ according to the BIEN definition it would represent a huge step forward in social protection in Russia.