Jane Dodds and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. Picture credit to: The Week
Over fifty candidates for the UK’s Liberal Democrat party (Lib Dem) have signed a personal commitment to back basic income pilots in the next parliament, if elected.
The intention to run these basic income pilots, which would be implemented by removing conditionality rules from the standard element of the main Universal Credit benefit system, is already an official part of the party platform, voted for by Lib Dem members this autumn as part of the party’s ‘A Fairer Share For All’ package of anti-poverty proposals. With social security issues low on the agenda in the election overall, however, a number of the party’s candidates signed a separate declaration to bring attention to the policy.
The Liberal Democrats have a comparatively long history with minimum income as an idea, with citizens’ income proposals forming part of the party’s platform in its 1992 manifesto, and in recent years their proposals to abolish the sanctions system for social security, which they adopted in 2016, have seen them move back towards unconditional income policies. This comes alongside the Lib Dems’ wider pledges to spend more money on social security, abolish benefit sanctions, and end many of the other restrictions and claim delays that have caused problems with the Universal Credit system since its introduction. Lib Dems have been recognized by the Resolution Foundation to have progressive policies on welfare issues.
The backers of the minimum income statement, which was organized by a group of party activists, come from across Britain, covering all nations and regions and both urban and rural areas. Notable signatories include Andrew George, James Cox, Jasmine Sakura-Rose and Jane Dodds (Welsh Liberal Democrat), who has publicly spoken out in favor of the idea.
Quotes from signatories:
“I support a minimum income because it gives people the power to say no to exploitative jobs and a base from which to work to better themselves. Only with a minimum income or UBI in place can we begin to support real freedom for all.” – Oliver Craven, candidate for Sleaford and North Hykeham
“We can’t carry on with a system that doesn’t ensure that people have a stable, reliable minimum level of income. The instability people face under the current social security system badly impacts on their health and wellbeing, and we have to find a way out of that.” – Josie Ratcliffe, candidate for South West Norfolk
“As a Lib Dem I believe in empowering people, and one of the most important parts of that is ensuring they can care for themselves and their communities and pursue their own paths and goals without the constantly looming threat of income insecurity that so many people currently face.” – Charley Hasted, candidate for Eltham
More information at:
Jane Dodds, “Why the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to trial Universal Basic Income in Wales”, Nation Cymru, March 2nd 2019
This article was written by James Baillie. Edited and reviewed by André Coelho.
Minna Ylikännö. Picture credit to: Kela
A half-day seminar called “Finnish Basic Income Experiment – Science meets social security reform” happened on the 4th of April, hosted by Kela, to focus on the presentation and discussion of the recently concluded (the cash transfer’s stage) basic income trial’s preliminary results. At the seminar, other Kela researchers communicated their analysis on the data, such as Olli Kangas (on the overall evaluation of the experiment), Ohto Kanninen (register data analysis) and Signe Jauhiainen (subjective wellbeing and financial stress)
The results had already been discussed by Minna Ylikännö, a senior researcher at
Kela, on a podcast recorded in February, hosted by Jim Pugh and Owen Poindexter. In this conversation, Minna confirmed that the
experiment has been more limited in scope than was originally planned by Kela
researchers, and that to date there has been no observable effect on take-up of
employment (on the long-term unemployed participants in the experiment).
Answering a phone survey (around 30% of the participants), Minna refers that those
in the BI trial reported significantly higher levels of life satisfaction and
well-being, more confidence in the future and self-perceived better mental
health in comparison with the control group. Even though the data analysis
process is not over yet, this process may not a include a second phone survey.
Minna Ylikännö also recommends, in the eventual pursuit
of other basic income-type of trials, that a careful consideration of all
factors which can motivate/demotivate people to look for a job, including a
series of subjective factors which enables them to do so. In her words: “it’s
not just about financial incentives, it’s about well-being”. In the referred
podcast, the hosts commented that, in talking about basic income experiments,
people tend to project their own desires or fears, over the results which can
easily be spinned in positive and negative directions.
Chicago’s City Hall building green roof. Picture credit to: Urban Matter
Earlier this year, the city of Chicago hit the news by introducing a resolution that would summon a taskforce to run and study a basic income trial within the Municipality. That resolution, put forth by Alderman Ameya Pawar, included the summoning of stakeholders, foundations, philanthropists and academics, to develop a basic income trial model providing an unconditional $500 /month to one thousand families in Chicago. This was in addition to the restructuring of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which will in itself be a subject of study.
That initiative received opposition from the Chicago Tribune, the most popular newspaper in the city. The paper published an editorial where it argued that the basic income trial was unaffordable and that Chicago officials should instead be finding ways to “raise incomes among working-class and poor residents”. Among the alternatives (to a basic income, experimental or full-fledged), the editorial referred to the deregulation of the private sector, which would “generate employment and boost incomes”.
Despite this opposition, Chicago leaders, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Ameya Pawar, just announced (through the Economic Security Project (ESP) the formation of the taskforce to which the resolution referred, having been called the Chicago Resilient Families Task Force. This cutting-edge group will explore and coordinate the basic income trial in the city, relying on an EITC modernization, which is how they will provide the monthly benefits to recipients.
The referred Task Force, in which the ESP is also investing, will be co-chaired by Tom Balanoff (Service Employees International Union President in Canada) and Celena Roldan (CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois), and will include “civic, religious and community leaders in addition to elected officials and academics”. It will produce a report with specifications on the basic income trial, and put forward policies to reduce poverty and rise middle-class citizens incomes.
After Stockton, Chicago is now paving the way for furthering basic income in the United States, amidst a choir of opponents (including the above mentioned Chicago Tribune editorial and others).
More information at:
Kate McFarland, “CHICAGO, US: City Considers Resolution to Investigate Basic Income Pilot”, Basic Income News, July 24th 2018
Kate McFarland, “US: Chicago Tribune against basic income for the City”, Basic Income News, August 12th 2018
Peter Kotecki, “Chicago could be the largest US city to launch a basic income pilot — here are the other major experiments around the world”, Business Insider, July 23th 2018
Kate McFarland, “STOCKTON, CA, US: New Details Revealed in Planned Basic Income Demonstration”, Basic Income News, August 23rd 2018
Rowena Itchon, “Basic income comes to Stockton”, Pacific Research Institute, February 5th 2018
Picture credit to: iStock
The start of the longest and largest Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiment in Kenya and the approaching end of the trial in Finland spark a new discussion among experts on the effects of ‘no-strings attached’ money transfers.
An article published in Nature in May 2018 discussed the importance of randomized trials in informing researchers and policy makers alike about the feasibility of an UBI scheme. The article states that critics of the currently employed conditional welfare systems believe that the limited results do not justify large administrative costs that come with such policies. Some policy-makers see UBI as a more affordable alternative that has more potential to alleviate poverty, according to the article, but the costs and benefits of UBI schemes still have not been clearly identified. With that in mind, many decision makers prefer to employ a data-driven approach by making randomized trials, the most universally accepted method of gathering information about the effects of UBI. However, even supporters of the evidence-based approach claim that designing and conducting UBI trials comes with its own set of difficulties. They point out that it requires a large amount of planning and researchers need to look for benefits in a wide variety of areas such as health, education, nutrition and job-seeking. Furthermore, lack of standardized goals and agreed upon areas of impact pose another challenge for advocates of UBI trials.
Damon Jones, an economist at the University of Chicago believes that even clearly demonstrated benefits will not necessarily indicate that UBI would work in practice. He arguments that most resources for the trials come from private funds and only include a small portion of the population. Hence, he thinks trials do not say much about the affordability of big government programs and the willingness of people to fund them through tax increases. On the other hand, he adds that despite these inherent limitations research still should be done.
Others propose that trials have an ongoing impact on UBI discussions. Rob Reich, a political scientist at California’s Stanford University thinks trials will help researchers identify flaws in the process, refine goals and impact areas as well as provide policy makers with some answers they are looking for. Furthermore, supporters argue that over time the studies will provide more insight on the costs and benefits of guaranteed income schemes. Proponents of UBI trials recognize that despite being important, updating research is expensive.
On the other hand, Quartz interviewed experts that expressed doubt whether randomized trials are the best option for analyzing the effects of UBI in the first place. According to Karl Widerquist, many effects will play out over the years and will not be revealed during the experiment, regardless of its size and cost. Nonetheless, he notes there is very little downside to trying it out. Others believe that the benefits have already been proven by initiatives such as Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend and there is no need for more research. Matthew Zwolinski adds that UBI has to be “robust enough to survive the political process”, meaning that he sees gradual changes having a higher likelihood of being implemented, compared to radical policies.
Although opinions differ, supporters hope that big trials like the one in Kenya will open the door for future research and help the discussion move forward.
More information at:
Carrie Arnold, “Nature: Money for nothing: the truth about universal basic income”, Nature, News Feature, May 30th 2018
Kate McFarland, “Overview of current basic income related experiments (October 2017)”, Basic Income News, October 19th 2017
Kate McFarland, “US/KENYA: GiveDirectly Officially Launches UBI experiment”, Basic Income News, November 17th 2017
Olivia Goldhill, “We’re giving up on universal basic income before the evidence is in”, Quartz, May 29th 2018
Trucks transporting PAL boxes. Credit to: Jesse M. Cunha and Giacomo De Giorgi
Vox Media, a USA online news outlet looks at a food support program in Mexico aimed at its poorest citizens, as a recent article shows. The program PAL (in Spanish “Programa de Apoyo Alimentario [Food Support Program]”) was first initiated in 2003 and has been closely monitored over the years. This program included, as a part of its roll out, three groups: one receiving in-kind transfers (food), another cash transfers with no strings attached and another still got nothing (control group). Recent findings indicate that there have been absolutely no inflation indicators during or related to the program (in kind or cash groups). Critics have been concerned about basic income programs leading to uncontrollable inflation. In fact, for almost 15 years now participants in the PAL program have enjoyed better nutrition and health outcomes, as well as lower prices in larger centres with greater competition and no inflationary outcomes have been found.
More information at:
Jesse M. Cunha and Giacomo De Giorgi, “The price effects of cash versus in-kind transfers”, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Staff Reports, August 2015
Dylan Matthews, “A new study debunks one of the biggest arguments against basic income”, Vox, September 20th 2017