International: Basic Income Earth Conference 2019 announcement (update)

International: Basic Income Earth Conference 2019 announcement (update)

The structure of the Conference has been updated.

BIEN Civic Forum will be held on the 22nd of August. On this day, having been called “India Day”, two major plenary discussions will be held: one that focuses on the Indian state of Telangana and its policy initiatives related to basic income, and a second one about the more general debate at the Indian national level.

As for the Thematic Areas for Plenary Sessions, these have been improved and detailed, as follows:

  1. Ideological Perspectives and Diverse Worldviews on Basic Income

Exploring different ideological perspectives and worldviews that see an unconditional Basic Income as a desirable component of a more equitable and inclusive society

  1. Women’s Care and Unpaid Work: Is Basic Income an essential component of a new paradigm of Equity?

What implications and impact would basic income have on the lives women who constitute more than half of the global population? Can we talk of a sustainable society as long as we steal labor from women? Can an unconditional basic income remedy this structural inequity?

  1. Is Basic Income the Foundation of a Caring Economy and Society?

Is it possible to build an economy and a society that is based on values of caring, sharing and partnering rather than power, domination and control? Is an unconditional basic income an essential ingredient of such a society?

  1. The Emancipatory Potential: What forms of Freedom and what kind of Community Life does Basic Income promote?

Basic Income experiments across the world have demonstrated repeatedly that an unconditional basic income has a strong emancipatory effect of its recipients.  It loosens the constraints of existence and liberates the mind to seek a life and a community better than what we have now. What implications does this freedom and emancipation have on us and the communities that we dwell in?

  1. Basic Income, the Commons and Sovereign Wealth Funds

Our society privileges and celebrates private inheritance, but it equally turns invisible what can be called our public inheritance, and the fact that it is people who own natural resources and the state is just a custodian. This perspective if implemented can radically transform the way we view, manage and account for our natural wealth and endowments.

  1. BI Pilots: Opportunities and Limits of Evidence

In both the low-income countries and in high-income countries, there have been basic income pilot studies. While we already have the results of some of the studies, by mid-2019, we are likely to have more results. The Congress will deliberate both the results and also what they can achieve in terms of policy change

  1. Basic Income and Political Action: What does it take to transform and idea into policy?

It is one thing to have strong evidence from pilot studies and something else to get the acceptance of the policy makers and persuade them to act on it. There have been some pioneers among politicians and policy-makers across continents who have taken the plunge and implemented different versions unconditional income transfers, inspired by the spirit of the idea of basic income. Do we see them as first steps towards a full UBI? Or as distortions of the idea?

  1. Development Aid and Corporate Philanthropy: Is Basic Income a Better Paradigm and Way Forward?

In recent years, there has been a great deal of rethinking about the effectiveness of the current paradigms of giving aid either to countries or to communities. Unconditional Basic Income is increasingly emerging as a radical alternative to conventional notions of giving aid. We witness this shift as much within the UN think-tanks as that of corporate philanthropy.

As for thematic areas for concurrent sessions have been updated and completed:

  1. Ideological Perspectives on Basic Income
  2. Women’s Care and Unpaid Work: Is Basic Income the new paradigm of Equity?
  3. Basic Income in Development Aid Debate: Is there a Paradigm-shift?
  4. Religious Perspectives on Basic Income
  5. Basic Income as a Foundation of a Caring Economy and Society?
  6. What forms of Freedom and What kind of Community Life does Basic Income promote?
  7. Basic Income and Blockchain Technology: Are there Synergies?
  8. Basic Income, Poverty and Rural Livelihoods
  9. Basic Income, the Commons, and Sovereign Wealth Funds: Is Public Inheritance an emerging issue?
  10. Basic Income Pilots: Opportunities and Limits
  11. Basic Income and Political Action: What does it take to transform an Idea into Policy?
  12. Basic Income and Corporate Philanthropy: Is Basic Income a better paradigm and way forward?
  13. Basic Income and Children
  14. Basic Income and Mental Health
  15. Basic Income and Intentional Communities: What does this Experience Teach us?

There will also be a Short Films Exhibition, organized in partnership with Grundeinkommen Television (Gtv), which a is part of the Initiative Grundeinkommen, a pioneering civil society initiative established in 2008. Guidelines for submission:

  1. The length of the Film should be below 15 minutes;
  2. Your film should be made in 2018 or 2019 and be shown for the first time to a wider audience at the Congress;
  3. The film should be in English or with English subtitles;
  4. Entries should reach latest by 1st June 2019;
  5. A committee appointed by INBI will select the entries for exhibition at the Congress;
  6. Two of these selected films will be jointly rewarded INBI Short Film Prize of 500 US Dollars each.

For further information and to submit films, please contact Enno Schmidt, Chair of the Committee. ennoschmidt@me.com.

General registrations can be made here. For paper abstract submission (in MS Word document between 300 and 500 words), please email to: 19biencongress.india@gmail.com.

The Congress is supported by:

LocalHi – travel and logistics

NALSAR University of Law

SEWA Madhya Pradesh

WiseCoLab

Mustardseed Trust

Everyday.earth

OpenDemocracy

CEPS, Center for Ethics, Politics and Society

Gtv, Grundeinkommen Television

Finland / International: BIEN Conference 2018 (part 1)

Finland / International: BIEN Conference 2018 (part 1)

At BIEN Conference main auditorium (at the forefront: Phillipe van Parijs)

 

On the 24th of August 2018, the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Conference at Tampere, Finland, started at full force (after an introductory day on the 23rd of August – Nordic Day).

 

The Opening Session, taking place at a large plenary auditorium, featured Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, and a firm believer in sustainable development goals. She focused on international affairs, concerning these goals, underlining that these cannot be attained if people don’t feel included. Hence, according to her, sustainability is only possible if and when poverty and migration issues are solved at the base of the social pyramid. These two aspects can be seen as two sides of the same coin, since, according to Rutger Bregman (discussed in his book Utopia for Realists), the existence of borders is one of the main drivers of poverty across the world. However, as Tarja puts it, poverty is a difficult issue to talk about, since it involves a considerable amount of shame.

Philip Alston

Philip Alston

To that introduction followed the first Plenary Session, where Phillip Alston, from the University of New York and Special Rapporteur of the United Nations, talked about human rights and how basic income should fit within its advocacy. Alston first referred to labour and social security rights, which are running thin everywhere in the world, if present at all. The right to an adequate standard of living also sounds reasonable but, in the same vein, is seldom realized in most regions. He also reports on several governments actual cutting on social services, under the banner of “tax changes”, which invariably end up amounting to several human rights violations. Not surprisingly, institutions like the IMF, World Bank and the OECD are “allergic” to human rights language. On the other hand, and despite universal basic income (UBI) is seldom referred in the human rights advocacy circles, Alston is certain these are not incompatible, even the contrary may be the case. According to him, it’s past time of tinkering with failed social security systems, which are getting more cumbersome and controlling by the day, to start and introduce new and radical ways. UBI is one of these ways, which will also help and push back against neo-liberal “giants” that are permanently forcing a full liberalization of the economy, without consideration to human rights. That and governments, stuck in the austerity and privatizations mindset. Alston concludes by saying that rage is actually a feeling necessary for something like a UBI to become a reality, since it requires mass mobilization and the insurgence against deep injustices in society.

 

Louise Haagh

Louise Haagh

The second Plenary Session came after a multitude of parallel sessions, covering aspects of financing basic income, its political aspects, experiments with cash transfers, historical perspectives, its relation with existing social services, current developments in Europe, particular aspects with disability and child grants, BIEN Affiliates reports (as coordinated by Julio Aguire) and Media Workshop (as coordinated by Scott Santens). Here, Louise Haagh, meanwhile re-elected BIEN Chair (along with Sarath Davala as Vice Chair), first argues that giving people a UBI doesn’t equate to bringing them property rights. She also warns that two-year pilot experiments are not basic income, however important these might be to further the UBI agenda. While being a strong advocate for UBI, Haagh highlights the possible dangers of pursuing with it as a policy, since it can be mortgaged to debt, deepen the black market or derive in what she has called “wishful economics”. That would be the case if UBI were to be considered as a panacea. According to her, UBI should never lead to what is called Flexicurity (security with flexible labour), which in present day politics and economics is invariably linked with punitive governance and control. For Louise Haagh, there is a strong case to be held from the combination of a developed welfare state and UBI, which could stimulate institutions to work better together. This can come with the recapture of social development ideals, and a too narrow focus on UBI could defeat that purpose which she considers central to our society, particularly in the context of European Countries.

 

This first day of the Conference was crowned by a reception at Tampere’s City Hall, where participants were given a warm welcome, although the Mayor Lauri Lyly was not present at the event.

Lena Lavinas

Lena Lavinas

The second day of this international event started by a presentation by Lena Lavinas, that although supporting such a policy like basic income, was very clear to highlight its dangers in light of recent financialization tendencies of the economy. This pattern is identified by the divestment of finance institutions from the productive sector, concentrating its investments on the speculative sphere, which however have an impact on the real economy through the reality of interest on loans. In a parallel to what Louise Haagh had presented the day before, Lavinas underlined the danger of welfare state dismantlement disguised under the UBI policy. Since a possible consequence of the implementation of basic income is the rise of global demand (for basic goods and services), she warns that may also enhance the rising of demand for credit, with the associated debt problems. Those problems are already affecting many middle-class and poor families in countries like Brazil and South Africa, as Lavina pointed out with specific numbers. Also, the mass inclusion of these millions of people in the banking system gives banking institutions much larger potential markets for financial instruments (mainly loans and insurance), with the expectable consequence of rising debt. To this apparently grim scenario, as portrayed by Lavinas, she assures that nothing (constructive) can be done without the severe taxation of the financial sector, plus the introduction of strong controls and regulations enforced over it. That, according to the university professor, could even be a path to finance a basic income.

 

The third and last day of the Conference is covered in a second part of the article, to be published soon.

 

 

More information at:

BIEN Conference 2018 website

André Coelho, “Finland / International: Nordic Day at the BIEN Conference 2018”, Basic Income News, August 30th 2018

BIEN Congress 2018: release of a revised conference program

BIEN Congress 2018: release of a revised conference program

The 2018 BIEN Congress, held in Tampere on 24-26 August, has released its revised conference program. In addition to a wide variety of panels and papers covering recent academic and policy discussions on basic income, the program features a series of exciting plenary speakers, including a plenary roundtable on basic income experiments and an opening address by Tarja Halonen, the former President of Finland.

 

For the first time in the history of BIEN congresses, on the 24th and 25th of August, the Tampere congress also hosts Basic Income in Motion, a film festival featuring more than a dozen films and documentaries on basic income running alongside the congress. Participants are also invited to participate in the Nordic Day on the 23rd of August and discuss recent advances in basic income with members of the different Nordic basic income networks, plus a public lecture by Rutger Bregman to promote the Finnish translation of his bestseller Utopia for Realists.

 

All events will take place on the main campus of the University of Tampere and are held in English.

 

The 5th of August deadline for registration is approaching fast! Don’t miss out and register as soon as possible and join us in Finland at the end of the August!

 

For questions, contact us at biencongress2018@gmail.com

 

Jurgen De Wispelaere, Pertti Koistinen and Roosa Eriksson
(on behalf of the BIEN2018 LOC)

EUROPE: European Social Survey (ESS) reveal findings about attitudes toward Universal Basic Income across Europe

EUROPE: European Social Survey (ESS) reveal findings about attitudes toward Universal Basic Income across Europe

Map of Europe. Credit to: Flickr

 

The European Social Survey (ESS) has published its 2016 Round 8 results, which include, for the first time in its history, a polling question asking participants to express their attitude to the hypothetical introduction of a basic income scheme in society.

 

The 34,604 participants across 18 European countries were asked whether, overall, they would be ‘strongly against’, ‘against’, ‘in favour’ or ‘strongly in favour’ of a scheme – labelled by the ESS as a ‘basic income scheme’ – that operates under the following conditions:

  • The government pays everyone a monthly income to cover essential living costs;
  • It replaces many other social benefits;
  • The purpose is to guarantee everyone a minimum standard of living;
  • Everyone receives the same amount regardless of whether or not they are working;
  • People also keep the money they earn from work or other sources;
  • This scheme is paid for by taxes.

 

There was also an option to leave no response to the question. The answer rate across the countries mostly fell between 90% and 98%, though the two anomalies were Poland, with an 85.3% rate, and the Russian Federation, with an 80.9% rate. Given it would be conjecture to determine reasons for this variation (since any information of this type wasn’t included in the survey), the more in depth analysis focused on those who did express opinion.

 

Of this group, the Russian Federation had the highest percentage ‘in favour’ or ‘strongly in favour’ of the ‘basic income scheme’, at a combined 73.2%, whilst participants in Norway were the least in favour, with only 33.7% answering in the positive. Taking the Esping-Anderson definition used throughout the ESS analysis of country groupings (based on Welfare State Regimes in 1990), it was evident that there was a slight, but evident, correlation between the category the country falls within and the general positivity expressed in the survey. The ‘Eastern Europe’ countries, for example, tended to be generally more in favour of the scheme, with, in addition to Russia, 65% of those in Slovenia, 58.5% of those in Poland, 52.2% of those in the Czech Republic, and 46.7% of those in Estonia either ‘in favour’ or ‘strongly in favour’ of the scheme (representing the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th and 12th countries, respectively, most in favour of the idea). Conversely, the countries falling within the ‘Social Democratic’ grouping tended to be generally less in favour of the scheme, with 66.3% of those in Norway, 62.4% of those in Sweden, 54.0% of those in Iceland, 50.2% of those in Netherlands and 44.3% of those in Finland either ‘against’ or ‘strongly against’ the scheme (representing the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 9th and 12th countries, respectively, least in favour of the idea). The countries within ‘Christian Democratic’ grouping – Germany, France, Austria and Belgium – plus the UK and Ireland, showed a more even split, generally in favour of or generally against, whilst Israel and Switzerland were treated as their own categories, with the former 65% either ‘in favour’ or ‘strongly in favour’ of the idea, and the latter, at the other end of the scale, 65.3% either ‘against’ or ‘strongly against’ the idea.

 

In terms of demographic breakdown, age seemed to be a driver of support, with all country groupings showing the highest level of support within the 15-34 age group, from which a common curtailing trend prevailed as the age bracket increased. The source of participant’s income also seemed to determine level of support in a similar cross grouping trend, with all country categories showing the highest level of support when income was derived from ‘unemployment benefits’ or ‘other social benefits’, and conversely, all showing the lowest level of support when income was accrued through ‘self-employment’, ‘pension’, and to a lesser extent, through general ‘wages or salaries’. Though the level of actual income, in terms of income percentile category within the country groupings, offered no indication as to whether a participant would be generally for or against the idea, there was a clear trend that, if the participant felt that they were finding it ‘very difficult’ or ‘difficult’ to cope with their level of income, they were far more likely to be pro the idea of the basic income scheme. Somewhat pertaining to real income not being an indicator, ‘social class’ (defined by ‘skilled workers’, ‘unskilled workers’, ‘small business owners’, ‘lower-grade service class’ and ‘higher-grade service class’) showed no variation in preference other than the country groupings’ reasonably strong overall proclivity. ‘Gender’ and ‘educational level’ both showed scattered and inconclusive trending.

 

Though the results of the survey do give some indication (and from a large data source) of people’s openness to ‘basic income’ across much and varying parts of Europe, the wording of the question requires that caution is taken when interpreting the data. Whilst the ESS description of a ‘basic income scheme’ does include all the elements BIEN determine as being necessary when talking about the concept (universality, unconditionality, with payments made periodically, in cash and to the individual), it also states, additionally, that it would would be paid for ‘by taxes’ and that it would replace ‘many other social benefits’. It was, therefore, the opinion of a particular implementation of universal basic income that was sought after (especially where the latter condition’s inclusion was concerned), where preconceived notions of the scheme’s potential positives or negatives are already affirmed. That is, it implies that there is no option for basic income to be included in addition to, and thus leading to an expansion of, the current social security system, but only as part of one that is fixed or diminishing in size. Other recent surveys, such as the IPSOS Mori in the UK, and the Politico/Morning Consult in the US, used wording only focusing on the basic income concept rather than its implementation.

 

More information at:

ESS8 – 2016 Data Download’, European Social Survey.org, October 31st 2017

Stuart Smedley, ‘Half of UK adults would support universal basic income in principle’, Ipsos.com, September 8th 2017

Patrick Hoare, ‘US: New POLITICO/Morning Consult poll finds that 43% of Americans are in favour of a UBI’, Basic Income News, October 5th 2017