From the 1st to the 3rd of July, 2020, at the University of Minho (Braga, Portugal), a conference on Basic Income experiments will occur, focused on its political and social policy implications. From the conference website it can be read:
The debate about basic income requires our attention, especially when a growing number of countries and cities are conducting experiments to test out new schemes of cash transfer. This conference aims to evaluate experiments from both normative and empirical perspectives, drawing on the insights of philosophy, political science, and economics, amongst others. It seeks to bring together those who are engaged in experiments both at a theoretical and practical levels to foster the debate between those involved in designing and implementing pilots with scholars in the fields of political philosophy, social sciences and policy analysis. We are particularly interested in assessing the political and the philosophical implications of these pilots and their results, the nature of those experiments, the epistemic status of the data and the impacts it generates, the manner in which the results can be translated into a real policy, to what extent they might inform other social policies, and which are the main limitations and challenges when conducting them.
The call for papers is online. Confirmed speakers include Guy Standing, Jamie Cooke, Rebecca Hasdell, Stuart White, Juliana Bidadanure and Karl Widerquist.
The conference will include a Book Symposium on Karl Widerquist, 2018’s book, A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens. If you would like to participate in that symposium or the conference in general, contact the organizers, Roberto Merrill at: email@example.com and Bru Laín Scandell at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johanna Perkiö, Doctoral Candidate, University of Tampere
A recent article on the Finnish basic income experiment has demonstrated how ‘framing’ the benefits of basic income in specific ways can make it acceptable to a wide political spectrum.
University of Tampere researcher Johanna Perkio has recently published an article examining how basic income has been perceived in Finnish political circle since the 1980s. Analysing party programmes and election manifestos, parliamentary motions and debates, and questions to ministers, she concludes that its take up within the current neo-liberal climate has been facilitated by seeing basic income as a way of dealing with economic problems of work and incentivisation.
Earlier debates, in the 1980s, emphasised notions of equal rights and fairness in employment. As more monetarist economic views began to dominate political thinking, basic income started being seen in terms of how it might incentivise the unemployed to find work. This was particularly true within political parties who were hesitant about supporting basic income.
Perkio also notes that the preliminary results from the Finnish experiment – which indicated that basic income led to increased well being amongst the recipients but did not necessarily help them find work – may mean that supporters of basic income need another frame to justify their support.
A blog post summarising the article is available online. The article itself is published by the Journal of Social Policy.
The French Parliament house. Picture credit to: Refresh
A law proposal, named “experimenting over the territory in order to implement a basic income”, was presented to Parliament (Assemblée Nationale), on the 31th of January, 2019. Although government had announced the will to promote such experiments, a majority of MP’s from the party in power rejected the debate before it even started. Concretely, the proposal was rejected by a majority of MP’s mainly from LREM, LR and UDI (Note 1).
The proposal was presented by the party Groupe Socialistes & apparentées, a minority group in Parliament whose history goes back to 1893, and supported by other 17 socialist groups. This almost three-year-old project has been initiated by Gironde’s president Jean-Luc Gleyze, building upon a growing national debate on basic income. In a twisted tint of irony, the discussion of this issue is being blocked by the same party which has declared its openness to amplify its debate in France. Specifically, a “preliminary rejection motion” has been presented, momentarily cutting the avenues for discussion in Parliament.
Although most MP’s have agreed, over time, that direct cash transfers would eliminate social benefits non-take up (in France, 36% of all eligible beneficiaries for social benefits do not take them up, due to ignorance and administrative complexity), the unconditionality feature of basic income was rejected by most. To them, it is the responsibility of the citizens to search for jobs, which are seen as “a cornerstone in individual liberty“. In other words, most LREM MP’s believe that people will be idle if they receive an unconditional basic income, which boils down to the most frequently held criticism over the policy (and a pessimist-laden view on human nature).
On the other hand, the Movement Français pour un Revenue de Base (MFRB) (French Movement for a Basic Income) sustains that it is precisely the basic income that allows people to acquire rights, in such a monetized society. Furthermore, the MFRB has declared full availability to work with MP’s in order to establish the possibilities for experimenting with basic income in French regions.
As for the law proposal itself, before rejected it was subject to several change propositions, sixteen in total. These changes aimed to shift the universal grounds of the proposal to an age cohort of 18 to 25 years of age, and to erase all mentions to unconditionality. Even the title was targeted, with a change proposal from “un revenue de base” (a basic income), to “une prestation d’accompagnement à la vie autonome” (a benefit to support an autonomous life).
LREM – party La Republique en Marche!, in power at the moment (in association with the Democratic Movement)
LR – The Republicans Group (former Union for a Popular Movement group)
UDI – Group UDI, Agir et indépendants
More information at:
MFRB press release, February 1st 2019
Assemblée Nationale (Française), “Economie: expérimentation territoriale visant à instaurer un revenu de base [Economy: experimenting over the territory in order to implement a basic income]”, Law proposal
André Coelho, “France: Gironde region’s path to a basic income experiment”, Basic Income News, May 17th 2018
A Critical Analysis of Basic Income Experiments for Researchers, Policymakers, and Citizens. It focuses on the actuality of basic income experiments, and presents the following summary:
At least six different Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiments are underway or planned right now in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, and Kenya. Several more countries are considering conducting experiments. Yet, there seems to be more interest simply in having UBI experiments than in exactly what we want to learn from them. Although experiments can produce a lot of relevant data about UBI, they are crucially limited in their ability to enlighten our understanding of the big questions that bear on the discussion of whether to implement UBI as a national or regional policy. And, past experience shows that results of UBI experiments are particularly vulnerable misunderstanding, sensationalism, and spin. This book examines the difficulties of conducting a UBI experiment and reporting the results in ways that successfully improve public understanding of the probable effects of a national UBI. The book makes recommendations how researchers, reporters, citizens, and policymakers can avoid these problems and get the most out of UBI experiments.
More information can be found, and the published version can be purchased here.
An early draft of the book can be downloaded for free here.
The RSA, a UK-based charity that aims to unleash human potential for enterprise and creativity, released a report discussing how basic income can be studied in the UK. The report is a toolkit for basic income study designs, highlighting fundamental features of a basic income study, potential outcomes and outlining four potential study designs. The report builds on previous research by the RSA, such as the Creative Citizen, Creative State report, and is released after the findings from the Welfare Conditionality Report found that welfare conditionality does little to increase people’s motivation to work.
The report suggests a minimum sample size of 1000 people or more to achieve statistical significance. Studies should have a duration of 2 years or more in order to assess the medium-term effects of basic income, such as changes in behaviour, community culture, poverty and inequality. Mixed methods are suggested for data collection, including the collection of demographic data and use of qualitative interviews. It also highlights the importance of identifying a group of key stakeholders, including community leaders and people working in non-governmental organisations and the public sector, to assist with the study design and the analysis of the results. This would ensure that relevant outcomes are identified and the collected data is properly understood and translated into relevant policy.
Interestingly, the report also includes a list of potentially relevant outcomes divided into direct, shorter term and indirect, medium term outcomes. The choice of outcomes is to be aligned with the policy objectives of the study and can be informed by stakeholder engagement. The authors include relevant references to studies where these outcomes have been looked at before and can provide a blueprint for measurement. Direct incomes include those related to health, lifestyle and the community; personal development; labour and work; personal finances; and poverty, feelings of security and prejudice. Indirect outcomes include community; economic impacts; and costs/savings for the government.
The report also outlines four potential experiments, which are based on past, current and future basic income studies, including summaries of the costs for each experiment. Of the four studies, only scenario 1 and 3 investigate basic income as defined by BIEN as the sole intervention.
- Scenario 1 is a mid-scale saturation site where all the people in a given area, such as a council ward, receive basic income payments compared to a similar population who do not receive basic income payments. Case study example: Dauphin, Manitoba, Canada;
- Scenario 2 is a targeted cohort study looking at a specific targeted population who may experience difficulties entering or sustaining work such as young adults, older adults, unemployed people and people receiving welfare or people with a low income. Case study example: Kela, Finland;
- Scenario 3 is a microsite which looks at a very small population, such as a council estate or distinct residential neighbourhood. The intervention is basic income payments with additional payments where basic income falls short of currently received welfare payments (such as in cases where people are in receipt of welfare for children) in order to ensure no one is worse off. Case study example: Homeless pilot, City of London, UK;
- Scenario 4 is a study of combined basic income and additional interventions (such as rent support, rent controls, temporary job placement) compared to a control group with no interventions, or to a group who receive the additional intervention only. Case study example: Barcelona, Spain.
More information at:
Charlie Young, “Realizing basic income experiments in the UK”, RSA Action and Research Centre, August 2018