Two new petitions have been launched in Europe in response to the Coronavirus emergency.
One has been launched in Italy on Change.org platform and is addressed to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, asking for 10 €/day for all Italian citizens as the fastest and most effective way to secure them against loss of income
Another appears on the YouMove.eu website and is addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, Head of the European Commission, Christine Lagarde, Head of the European Central Bank, Mário Centeno, President of the Eurogroup and Finance ministers of all European Member States, asking for a “Quick introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income as an urgency measure [given the corona virus pandemic economic consequences]”.
The Basic Income Network (BIN) Italia has published a petition pleading for the Italian governement and Parliament to immediately install an emergency basic income. There, it can be read:
To the Italian government and Parliament
EXPANDING THE CITIZEN’S INCOME SCHEME! IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
Right at a time when it is recognised that individuals must act as active and responsible members of their communities, it is necessary to prove we all truly adhere to the idea of a society that fulfils its members’ real needs. In short, it is time to guarantee the right to existence for all human beings.
Now that we are all facing sudden and unexpected changes, appropriate political and social structures are needed in order to both respond to the current (corona virus) emergency and introduce an universal social protection measure. It is time to simplify the social protection schemes so as to include the whole population, thus guaranteeing each individual access to these protections regardless of whether they are employed or not.
In 2019, Italy introduced a citizen’s income scheme which, if properly reformed in terms of universal access and less binding criteria, can be an important tool to support people and ensure them the right to access the resources they need to survive.
Therefore, we believe it is urgently necessary to:
- Expand access to the Citizen’s Income Scheme for all those who are excluded from social safety nets;
- Simplify procedures and access criteria, and make immediate benefit payments to new applicants;
- Deliver the benefit payment on an individual basis;
- Remove the existing constraints in terms of active labour market policies or other binding criteria, which now more than ever prove to be expensive and ineffective;
- Use all forms of financing, including European funds, to support a broader number of citizens’ income beneficiaries;
- Provide that changes made in terms of universal access do not end after the “quarantine” or “emergency” period, but rather become structural, thus eventually forming the basis for a new highly inclusive social welfare system.
Social Welfare is not a cost, but an investment!
The petition has been undersigned and supported by dozens of organizations operating in the Italian territory.
Tuesday, 30th July, after a quick, aggressive and ruthless illness, Luca Santini (43), has passed away. For over a decade he had been President of the Basic Income Network Italia (BIN Italia), an association for basic income for which he had enthusiastically contributed to as a Board Committee member. He had been championing over twenty years of study, writing, action and shared campaigns in the social movements or in governmental institutions, in favour of an unconditional and universal basic income.
Luca Santini, no longer among us, was the lawyer always smiling, cheerful, methodical, polite and brilliant we were lucky enough to meet and that now we all remember: always on the side of the weakest and most defenseless, always alongside those who claim daily rights, freedom, social protections, guarantees and solidarity.
Luca, INCA’s lawyer, Progetto Diritti’s lawyer, founder of the Rome-Dakar project, creator of dozens of initiatives and projects including the festival À travers Dakar, was also a passionate cyclist, lover of opera, cinema, poetry, music, art, literature, social and technological innovation, and interested in the transformation of cities and work. His interventions, essays, writings are scattered among magazines, such as the legendary Infoxoa, newspapers, books, articles, interviews and videos. He also had research supported by local and European institutions, collective publications and books edited by BIN Italia, up to the various Notebooks for Income (Quaderni per il Reddito), in which he has always contributed with his commitment and proverbial organizational and theoretical ability.
Hundreds of people took part at the funeral, held in Roma on August 2nd 2019, and dozens of messages of condolence were sent by precarious workers’ collectives, migrant rights associations, researchers, intellectuals, lawyers and many supporters of basic income.
In memory of him, BIN Italia will continue the promotion of basic income and social justice for all.
The Board Committee of the Basic Income Network Italia.
Roberto Ciccarelli (journalist, writer and member of the Basic Income Italy) has published an article on the proposal of the Italian government’s citizenship income.
In the article Ciccarelli talks about the poverty benefit misleadingly called a “citizenship income”, proposed by M5Star government. “What has been included in the soon-to-be-approved budget law” he says “is nothing but a sham and a deliberate misuse of words”. A real “citizenship income” is not tied to an obligation to work and has nothing to do with the “disciplining and punishment of beneficiaries which prominently feature in this M5S-Lega version of “workfare,” which apes the worst features of the Hartz IV German system”. “This benefit”, Ciccarelli writes, “doesn’t have any of the traits of universality, justice, equitability and unconditionality. It is neither a “universal income” nor a “citizenship income.” It is a workforce reintegration benefit of last resort for the unemployed, temporary workers and the poor, part of the authoritarian turn of the welfare state aimed at the creation of one or more parallel labor markets”. Ciccarelli also recalls that “They are talking about a new category of so-called “citizenship crime,” with up to six years in prison in case of fraud. The benefit will be tied to eight hours of unpaid work per week, to compulsory training. The duration of the benefit is also unclear and uncertain. It was said at first that after the first twelve months, the so-called “income” would gradually diminish to zero”.
Ciccarelli also writes that “The idea of this “income”— as repeatedly explained by Pasquale Tridico, an advisor to Di Maio — in just a short time, the person in “absolute poverty” will start buying “Italian products,” will get employed (in a permanent position, Tridico seems to imagine—not in small temporary jobs, as is most likely), and will contribute to the “wealth of the nation.””
The many problems of the M5S proposal, however, should not divert the attention from the political fight that has been waged over the past five years, a confrontation which has naturally intensified during the election campaign ahead of the latest 4th of March elections.
Ciccarelli also speaks about “the Democratic Party fighting against the proposal that has been (grossly misleadingly) called a “universal income.” Disingenuously pretending to believe the dishonest characterization of their own proposal by the Five Stars themselves, Renzi and his followers have spent at least four years attacking the very principle of an income that would be provided to all without asking them to do any work in return”.
What the M5S was actually proposing was not a universal income at all, but a significant extension of the “social inclusion income” (REI), a flagship proposal of the Democratic Party, approved during the 2013-2018 legislature.
Ciccarelli concludes that “A universal income is truly needed—this fact is absolutely clear. This so-called “citizenship income,” and other schemes such as the French “universal working income,” are marred by the tension between giving people the possibility to choose how they live their own life and an authoritarian discourse of penalties and obligations. Welfarism clashes with dirigism: one is not allowed to sit on the couch all day, nor to take any break between unpaid community work and a training course. This project shows clearly the present tendency to demand a lot from those who have little in order to justify granting them a benefit of last resort that will not work towards overcoming poverty, but towards making the regime of full precarious employment a reality.”
More information at:
Roberto Ciccarelli, “The linguistic scam of Italy’s ‘citizenship income’”, Basic Income Network Italia, October 24th 2018
Roberto Ciccarelli, “La società della piena occupazione precaria: il “reddito” secondo Macron e Di Maio“, il manifesto, September 14th 2018
Reviewed by André Coelho
Since the new government led by Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) and Lega (the Italian extreme right-wing party) was formed, the proposal of a so-called “citizen income” in Italy has had much echo. First proposals go back to 2013, having been reported at the time.
This proposal is among the first programmatic points of the M5S and has been included in the “government contract“, among the goals to be achieved in this legislature. It has reverberated widely, and some confusion has been established. It has been suggested that basic income is in the pipe for Italy’s social policy, an idea inflated by some media reports. To that also contributed the reporting on the Livorno case, a small coastal town in Italy, in which a conditional to work type of basic income experiment has been conducted, having even been listed among the basic income experiments in the world at this time (year 2016).
To be clear, the M5S, even conceding the use of the term “citizen’s income” (a term coined in the 90s, by social movements and precarious workers, signifying “basic income”), is proposing a targeted to the poor minimum income scheme, conditional to work. This kind of policy has already been adopted, for many years, in the majority of European countries. The fact is that Italy is still one of the few European countries which doesn’t have experience with social support for those living below the poverty line. Moreover, European institutions have been asking for the introduction of at least economic support for the poor in Italy, which is one of the countries with the highest poverty rates in Europe.
The only social support for the poor up to this moment, in Italy, was introduced by the previous Gentiloni government, which has introduced a “minimum income for inclusion” intended for poor families. This support, however, is very conditional, and includes obligations for the whole family to accept any proposed work and a benefit that averages 130 € per month per person. In addition, only € 1.8 billion have been assigned to fund this social benefit, which covers only a small fraction of the families in need of assistance. The M5S proposal is similar, only the value is increased to around to 780 € per month per person.
The 5 Star Movement has developed, however, the hability to bring forth, in the Italian political debate, a theme that in many other European countries has already been settled with income support for the unemployed or the poor.
Social support in the shape of minimum income has suffered funding cuts across Europe, given the austerity measures of the past few years, with the introduction of severe restrictions which reduce accessibility and introduce more work conditions. The Hartz IV reforms in Germany and the Universal Credit in the United Kingdom are examples of this. Neverthleless, this is the kind of social support the 5 Star Movement is putting forth at the moment, with the “citizen’s income” proposal.
Luigi Di Maio (Photo credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
Luigi Di Maio, the current vice-prime minister and minister of labour, is quick to clarify what he means by “citizen’s income”: “those receiving this income will not stay on the couch doing nothing, but will be called on to accept any kind of work, and will be forced to work for the State for at least eight hours per week in the meanwhile”. This adds to a very common mindset of conditional support, based on the belief that people will remain inactive if they are given that chance. A belief grounded on a firm reciprocity work ethic (workfare), particularly remote from the idea of basic income.
The proposal, which provides an arguable light condition to work (a possibility to refuse work if it doesn’t align with the minimum income recipient expectations), has never been discussed in Parliament, even though it was brought into parliamentary committees.
The Movement of which Luigi Di Maio is a part of has made a legislative proposal for this conditional minimum income, but the actual parliamentary debate has not yet started. Part of this proposal is the financing of the policy with a quick-start of 2 billion € in two years, to setup a system of employment certers for ensuring that receipients are controlled in their way to find employment. Simultaneously, a proposal of an income Flat Tax of 15% has also been made, which has been associated with tax cuts, given the present day tax landscape in Italy.
However, there have been other proposals already delivered for Parliamentary discussion, such as the popular bill for the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income, presented in 2013. This bill was backed by over 170 associations, after a six-month social campaign, 250 public initiatives and more than 50 000 signatures collected.
There is no doubt that all this political activity has awakened the debate about guaranteed income, or a right to an income, and also about unconditional basic income. In fact, a series of political campaigns have begun in Italy, particularly thanks to movements of precarious workers, who demand a “guaranteed income immediately” and who took the streets with demonstrations in front of the institutional offices. They lined up in front of job centers, asking for a guaranteed income to be given to them “now”. Citizens movements concerning the right to proper housing and several labour unions, have also demonstrated their request for a guaranteed basic income in several events, while other groups such as the femininst movement “non una di meno” propose ideas such as the self-determination income, which is similar to an unconditional basic income.
More information at:
Sabrina Del Pico, “Italy: 5 Star Movement and the confusing proposal of a citizen’s income“, Basic Income News, March 14th 2013
Brian Wang, “Italian government talks 780 € per month basic income and tax cuts dispite Greece like debt levels“, Next Big Future, June 2nd 2018
Andrew Kaplan, “Italy: Basic Income Pilot launched in Italian coastal city“, Basic Income News, December 28th 2016
Chris Weller, “8 basic income experiments to watch out for in 2017“, Business Insider, January 24th 2017
Chris Pleasance, “Italy will soon have a flat 15 per cent tax rate and universal income scheme if president agrees coalition deal between anti-establishment and far-right parties“, MailOnline, May 18th 2018
Sandro Gobetti, “The bitter Italian situation: no basic income and false protection for the poor“, Basic Income News, April 24th 2017
Chiara Brusini, “Reddito di cittadinanza? Prima 50mila assunti. Centri per l’impiego senza risorse e banche dati [Citizens income? Only for the first 50 000 hired. Employment centers with resources or databases]“, Il Fatto Quotidiano, March 27th 2018
Basic Income Network Italy, “50mila firme per proposta di legge sul reddito minimo garantito [50 thousand signatures for a proposed law on guaranteed minimum income]“, February 28th 2018
Sandro Gobetti, “Roma 5 giugno: in assemblea per un reddito subito! [Rome, June 5th: assembly for an income immediately!]“, Basic Income Network Italy, June 4th 2018
Article reviewed by André Coelho