Phillipe Van Parijs was in Seoul, on the 19th of June 2018, presenting a keynote lecture, where Nobel prize economists Joseph Stiglitz and Augus Deaton where present, as well as Peter Hartz, whose name became attached to the Hartz IV reform in Germany. The lecture was entitled “Why Universal Basic Income”, and the event named “The KYUNGHYANG FORUM 2018” with this year’s theme “BEYOND $30000, Striving for a better tomorrow – Beyond inequality”.
There was also a panel discussion between these experts, under the title “A proposal and strategy for sustainable development”. Among the interventions, Augus Deaton made the pertinent point in which basic income experiments are establishing that basic income “doesn’t discourage people from working”, while one of the main arguments defended by Van Parijs (for basic income) is precisely to supply the real freedom of choice (and not work, if that’s the case). One might argue, however, that it is precisely that freedom which allows people to work, expectedly in something meaningful to them.
Van Parijs presentation and panel discussion can be watched through the following links.
The second annual Basic Income Asia Pacific conference will be held in Taipei, Taiwan on March 17 and 18. This year’s theme is “Asia Pacific’s Economic Future.”
Keynote speeches will be delivered by Enno Schmidt, the Swiss referendum leader, and Dr. Sarath Davala, the lead researcher for the UNICEF basic income trials in India.
“The focus on Asia is necessary to understand how we are going to interpret the idea regionally – given Asia’s own specificities and peculiarities. This conference is going to open this much needed conversation. This event is yet another milestone achieved by the UBI Taiwan, one of the most dynamic national groups,” Davala said.
Leading thinkers in academia, government and NGOs from Taiwan, mainland China, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States will join the conference to discuss the challenges facing the Asia Pacific and potential solutions, such as basic income.
Dr. Hermann Aubie is a lecturer at Aston University in the United Kingdom. His research specializes on comparing basic income movements in East Asia and Europe.
“This conference offers a rare and precious opportunity in the Asia Pacific region to build upon the wave of renewed attention that Universal Basic Income gained in recent years to discuss actively how we can create a wider consensus and concrete initiatives that build upon existing basic income designs and pilot implementations across the world,” Aubie said.
The entire conference will be live-streamed on UBI Taiwan’s Facebook account, including both English and Chinese audio simultaneous translations.
Taiwan has recently lowered the threshold for referendums, which has opened the possibility for a UBI referendum in Taiwan. This will be a topic of particular focus for two of the presentations at the conference, including Schmidt who will present on how Taiwan can lead Asia with a UBI referendum.
“With the introduction of Direct Democracy this year in Taiwan, the UBI Taiwan proponents have the same chance and political tool to turn UBI into a nationwide discussion and to push it to a people’s vote like the Swiss have done,” Schmidt said.
The conference coincides with increased discussion of basic income in the Asia Pacific, with the UN Development Program holding roundtable discussions on basic income in Beijing, China last October and December, as well as Korea discussing designs for a a pilot program.
“With the second annual UBI Asia Pacific regional conference approaching, we have expanded into two days, allowing us to share our ideas of how to improve society through implementation of Universal Basic Income,” said Ping Xu, co-founder of UBI Taiwan and UBI Asia Pacific.
The conference will examine the economic and social challenges facing the Asia Pacifc region, and will assess what a basic income policy can do to address these issues, such as inequality, automation, globalization, demographics, and environmental issues.
Last year’s conference attracted 100 participants and thousands of online viewers. The conference helped bring attention to basic income in Taiwan, with the formation of a UBI summer fellowship program and discussions with the Taichung Social Affairs Bureau about a potential pilot program.
The event is organized by National Chengchi University’s (NCCU) College of Social Sciences, and NCCU’s International Master’s Program in Asia Pacific Studies. It will be held at NCCU on March 17 and NTU on March 18. The event’s volunteers and coordinating team are part of UBI Taiwan.
“At this juncture of history where poverty and inequality are rising rapidly, I think we urgently need a “new universalism” of the kind UBI promises. There’s a long road and a lot of work ahead of us to make it a reality, but as more and more people place their hope in UBI’s emancipatory potential to protect their livelihood, human rights and dignity, we just can’t afford to disappoint such expectations,” Aubie said.
Writing Assistance from: James Grant
South Korea’s government included an expenditure to design potential models for a basic income experiment into the budget for 2018. It shows that government and politicians in South Korea have started to consider basic income as a significant and unavoidable policy.
Against this backdrop, BIKN held a conference under the title of “Why we need a basic income experiment: The necessity of BI and significance of a BI experiment” on Jan. 23, 2017, which was co-sponsored by the Democratization of Economy Forum of the National Assembly.
Four speakers came to propose potential basic income models for Korea and to make a critical evaluation of the experiments that have already been carried out or will soon begin in other countries or regions.
Professor Seo (Gunsan National University) said the existing social security system is based on an employment-contract relation, revealing the limitations of highlighting the qualitative change of work into “flexible” employment. We need to form new strategies to face the current situation and we constructed three possible options.
The first strategy is an expansion strategy that seeks to expand the legal nature of employees considering their actual conditions. The second is to shift the basis of social insurances from employment-based social insurances to income-based ones. Finally, we could consider the basic income strategy. Professor Seo said that the first strategy, a kind of legal approach, has two drawbacks which does not keep up with the actual changes in the economy and is subject to many blind spots. Although, such a strategy could be helpful in the short-term. The second strategy is limited because it is still based on labor-related income. So she maintained that the basic income strategy is the most effective in the “workless” future.
Professor Baek (Catholic University), stood upon the same understanding of the current situation as Professor Seo. Seo brought attention to the transition to a welfare state centered on basic income in his presentation, “Precarious Work and Basic Income for Young People.” In the first he suggested the ideal method of transition is comprised of eight stages: 1) rational adjustment of the existing social security system; 2) implementation of new categories of social assistance programs such as unemployment allowance; 3) strengthening social allowances for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities; 4) introduction of a social benefit for young people; 5) implementation of participation income; 6) expansion of the coverage of age groups in age-related categorical allowances; 7) introduction of a low-level basic income which integrates a few social allowances; 8) implementing a full basic income. For this, he maintained that the most useful and effective method is to introduce a basic income for young people first, after he highlighted the insecurity of young people in Korea (unstable employment, low wages and exclusion from social insurances).
Dr. Park (Chungnam Institute) proposed a Farmer’s Basic Income or Rural Residents’ BI in “Requirement of Farmer’s (Rural Residents) BI and Introduction Plan.” His starting point is that the income of farmer’s household has steadily decreased, and the existing subsidy has a serious drawback. In 2016, the average earning of a farmer’s household is 63.5 percent of an urban worker’s one, which has undermined the foundation of agriculture. And the subsidy is paid in proportion to the arable acreage, which causes disadvantages to petty farmers. In fact, the total size of the subsidy is too small. Dr. Park proposed the Farmer’s BI or Rural Residents’ BI to enhance the public value of agriculture and to secure the income of a farmer’s household.
Professor You (Australian National University) proposed the principles and direction that should be the basis of a BI experiment in Korea, while examining the basic income experiments or similar ones carried out across the world. He found that the experiments could be a foundation for discussing implementation of BI, even though they have limitations. He proposed that we need to make comprehensive and long-term design for a BI experiment to whatever extent possible. To produce such a design, two features would be required: close cooperation with government and a wide range of expert participation.
The South Korea government will post the program to design BI experiments to which BIKN will apply with other academics and experts. It will be an opportunity to spread the legitimation and necessity of BI widely, even if BI is not implemented in a short timeframe in Korea.
Hyosang Ahn, Executive Director of BIKN
Edited by: Tyler Prochazka
Looking back to the past, looking forward to the way ahead
The 6th General Assembly (GA) of Basic Income Korea Network (BIKN) was held in Seoul last Saturday. The GA, the highest decision-making body, is held every January, in which we examine the activities of last year and decide what activities we should carry out in the following year.
2017 was a watershed year for BIKN as well as for the politics in Korea. Popular resistance to the abuse of power and corruption of the former president and her coterie led to a snap presidential election in which Mr. Moon from the Democratic Party won. We have the most democratic government in a decade.
Grievances about social and economic inequality and insecurity have flowed under the popular resistance, although it was certainly an expression of the aspiration for democracy. Under these circumstances, interest and support for the basic income idea could be strengthened and become more prolific prolific. One of the more influential candidates presented basic income policy as an electoral promise.
BIKN had two main achievements in the turbulent year of 2017. Above all, the basic income agenda entered into the center of the public sphere. During this period, BIKN has been recognized as a prestigious institution around the discussion of BI. Secondly, we saw the quantitative growth of our organization, including an increase in individual and group membership, as well as the growth of local networks (chapter of BIKN). Now we have around 500 individual members, seven group members and six local networks.
Upon the those self-assessments, BIKN decided the following activities for the next year: we will spread understanding of the basic income concept through online basic income courses; we will make efforts to form basic income coalitions during the local elections this June in order to implement basic income policy; we will participate in the project to design experimental models for basic income which the government will commission this year (see another article); we will change BIKN into a corporation in order to secure institutional status.
We expect this year will be another watershed to realize the basic income idea.
Hyosang Ahn Executive Director of BIKN
Hong Kong’s newspaper of record, South China Morning Post, recently covered the surge of interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the Asia Pacific.
The author, David Green, points out the positive data that has been demonstrated thus far from cash-grant experiments, such as in India.
South Korea has had interest in basic income since the “youth dividend” was implemented in Seongnam city. BIEN held its Congress in South Korea last year.
The article notes that Taiwan is seeing increased interest in the idea of basic income since the first Asia Pacific focused Basic Income conference was held in Taipei.
The headline references China’s dibao program, which is a cash-grant minimum income guarantee. The dibao has many differences to UBI as conceived by Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN). Primarily, dibao is not a universal cash-grant (dibao is means-tested and only given to those that are under the dibao poverty line).
Due to dibao’s means-tests, the article notes there are an array of issues with China’s minimum income guarantee, primarily that it does not reach the poor.
Tyler Prochazka, features editor of BI News, was quoted as advocating for China to create “special economic zones” to test a UBI.
David Green, “GETTING PAID TO DO NOTHING: WHY THE IDEA OF CHINA’S DIBAO IS CATCHING ON“, South China Morning Post, April 14, 2017.