On June 22nd 2020, researcher Daniel Raventós intervened before the Commission for Social and Economic Recostruction of the Congress of Deputies in Madrid.
Prof. Raventós outlined his proposal of Universal Basic Income (UBI) starting by defining this economic measure as a public monetary payment to the entire population on an individual, regular, unconditional and universal basis.
In the past 40 years, Spain has been the OECD country that experienced the longest periods with an unemployment rate that exceeded 15% of the labor force, and another 15% of wage earners live currently under the poverty threshold. According to prof. Raventós, this condition is very unlikely to change in the short term, leaving millions of people in a situation of fragility for years to come.
Given this assumption, prof. Raventós gave some key points of his proposal:
• A monthly stipend of €715 would be granted to all citizens or legal residents, in spite of their employment status;
• The UBI should be universal (like present-day Healthcare) since this would allow all citizens to enjoy real liberty, which is only achieved by fulfilling material conditions;
• The UBI should be unconditioned because subsides “ex-post” often generate systemic errors and/or lead to the non-take up of social benefits (persons entitled to receive financial subsides who are unaware of their entitlement). An universal income would eliminate or reduce the disincentive of looking for a job, that can occur when the subsidy is conditioned to the unemployment status;
• The UBI should be the result of a profound fiscal reform, where the 20% of wealthiest people would see a rise in the wealth tax, together with a possible remodeling of the IRPF income tax, which would benefit 80% of the population.
In prof. Raventós’s view, another positive aspect of this reform is the bargaining power that marginalized categories of citizens, such as women, would gain.
Article written by Julen Bollain, reviewed by André Coelho.
Reports are emerging that Spain is hoping to deploy a “permanent” basic income type program in the near future. The program comes as Spain aims to respond to the economic crisis from the global coronavirus pandemic.
Spain has one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world with over 13,000 deaths.
Spain’s push for establishing basic income as a “permanent instrument” that “stays forever” will help reduce financial anxieties for many families worried about their jobs. Sending cash to families rather than corporations will better ensure economic security for the most vulnerable.
However, questions remain about the nature of the program and whether it will be truly universal and unconditional.
If Spain successfully implements basic income, it will become the first European country to implement the program on a national scale and one of the only places in the world to do so.
Finland famously experimented with a basic income pilot program. The experiment made recipients happier and healthier. Nonetheless, some government officials were upset the basic income pilot did not significantly affect employment status within a year for recipients.
Nadia Calviño, Spain’s minister for economic affairs, said the payments will be targeted to families and will differentiate based on their “circumstances.” In practice, differentiating based on circumstances will result in means tests that fall on the poor. If there are strict criteria, then some families who need assistance may be unnecessarily excluded or have their assistance delayed.
A better system is presuming each individual qualifies and allowing wealthier individuals to opt-out. If an individual who received basic income has a large income by the end of 2020, the government can phase out their basic income through the income tax system the following year.
Universality helps the poor, not the rich. It ensures all those who need assistance can receive it immediately. The true costs of universality are lower because it requires less administration and bureaucracy to implement the program.
The pilot project which is being carried out in Barcelona – B-MINCOME – combining guaranteed minimum income and active social policies in Barcelona’s deprived urban areas– published a report, on July 2019, with the results of its first operational year (2017-2018). The experiment, which began in October 2017 and is due by the end of 2019, aims to reduce poverty and social exclusion in highly vulnerable groups. During these 24 months, and based on a Randomised Control Trial model, 1000 households (randomly) selected from three of the city’s poorest districts (Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Martí) have been receiving a maximum cash transfer of €1675 a month. Of these 1000 households, 550 have also taken part in four active-inclusion policies which the project has set up: one for training and employment; one of fostering entrepreneurship in the social, solidarity and cooperative economy; one with grants for refurbishing flats in order to rent out rooms; and one involving community participation.
What makes this project so innovative is that it combines four modes of participation: Conditional (people randomly assigned to an active policy are obliged to take part in it), Unconditional (participation in these policies is not a condition for receiving the income), Limited (any additional income that might be obtained proportionally reduces the amount of the cash transfer) and Non-limited (where this additional income does not reduce the amount of the transfer).
Apart from reducing poverty and fostering personal autonomy, the B-MINCOME’s overall objective is to test which modality of income transfer is the most effective (concerning results) and the most efficient (concerning implementation costs). This experiment or pilot project is, therefore, an initial step towards implementing a municipal income-transfer system which should be consolidated in the near future.
In line with the results obtained in similar experiments, such as the one in Manitoba during the 1970s, the Finish one, the one suddenly cancelled in Ontario and those that are now coming to a close in various Dutch cities, such as Utrecht, the report now published by the Barcelona City Council shows very positive quantitative results. For example, an 11% average increase in general well-being and a 1,4% increase in economic well-being. It also shows an 8% reduction in the severe material privation index, and a reduction of up to 18% in ‘worrying about not having enough food’. It is also worth noting the 3% average reduction in the need to get money through means other than employment (e.g. by renting out rooms, a problem that especially affects the city of Barcelona) or the decreasing trend in developing mental illnesses and an improved quality of sleep, by 10% and 1% respectively – two results associated with a reduction in the financial stress suffered by these families. Furthermore, the qualitative and ethnographic evaluation of the project also reveals positive impacts, such as an increase of nearly 28% in happiness and general satisfaction with life, as well as a significant increase in engagement with and participation in neighbourhood and community life.
However, the report does not detect statistically significant changes in housing insecurity or in the households’ ability to cope with unexpected expenses (although this cash-transfer is not designed to make savings possible but only to meet basic expenses). Furthermore, no significant results have been observed regarding work placement or in other dimensions related to employment. However, it should be noted that this result was expected and is in line with other similar experiments, which also confirms the initial hypothesis: people in the Conditioned modality experienced a “lock-in effect”, as their (compulsory) participation in the active policies may have meant they had less time to look for work. However, it should be noted that most participants were suffering from a high degree of exclusion or job precariousness prior to the start of the project. It was, therefore, unrealistic to expect ambitious results in this sense.
The referred report only contains results obtained during the first year of the project, and hence the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the project can only be definitively evaluated in early 2020.
Given the recipients’ highly vulnerable profile, and the fact that these results come from a single year of (the pilot’s) implementation, there are motives for optimism. Final results are expected to be more significant and consistent from a statistical perspective, plus even more encouraging from a substantive point of view, i.e. in improving beneficiaries’ quality of life, increasing their freedom and autonomy and reducing their dependence on other public subsidies.
Written by Bru Laín (firstname.lastname@example.org). Affiliate professor of Sociology (University of Barcelona), researcher at the B-MINCOME project and Secretary of the Spanish Basic Income Network
Reviewed by André Coelho
Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE) is organizing the first ever Summer Conference on The Politics of Basic Income. With the elections to the European Community Parliament in May 2019, UBIE has decided to focus on how to make basic income a hot topic during the campaign. For this, the Conference has been prepared so as to include a broad range of speakers, roundtables and workshops with the objective of designing a strategy that will put basic income in the debate to elect our future representatives.
The Conference will take place on the 13th to 16th of September in Barcelona and it will focus on political leadership, identifying key allies and spotting the challenges and opportunities of basic income in the political arena.
The program includes a welcome dinner, a day with round tables and speakers, and finally, a day full of participative workshops to allow participants to exchange ideas and design a strategy for making basic income a key hot topic in the European Union elections. There will also be a screening of a new documentary about basic income produced by Humanistas por la Renta Básica. A preliminary program draft is already available.
The first roundtable will revolve around basic income related pilot projects and local politics, which will count with the participation of Lluís Torrens, Ina Dhimgjini, Silvia Camean and Zeljka Topalovik (to be confirmed).
This will be followed by a roundtable on political parties and parliaments, with the presence of political representatives such as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julie Ward
, Member of the British parliament Ronnie Cowan
, and Member of the Basque parliament, Julen Bollain
, and professor José Noguera.
Known basic income activists will also contribute with their expertise in the third roundtable, on Basic income proposals at the European Union level. Here there will be Elena Ambruhl, Eda Tahiraj, Bru Laín (to be confirmed), Stanislas Jourdan and Guillermo Collado Wilkins.
Lastly, the fourth rountable will be examining the need for a social base claiming the right to a basic income. Mayte Quintanilla, Hector Pojomovsky and the Marea Basica will explain how to go about this
On Saturday, participative workshops on theory of change will follow.
The updated Conference program can be accessed here
A new documentary about Basic Income, RBUI, nuestro derecho a vivir, in english UBI, our right to live, had its debut in Madrid, on May 12th in the Auditorium of the Cultural Center “Pozo del Tío Raimundo” during the Foro Humanista Europeo 2018. The documentary was directed by Álvaro Orús and produced by Pressenza and the group Humanistas por la Renta Básica Universal. The documentary includes a series of interviews done during the 17th BIEN Congress, featuring long time Basic Income supporters like Guy Standing and Philippe Van Parijs, and many others like BIEN’s Chair Louise Haagh, Ping Xu, Cosima Kern, Scott Santens, Sara Bizarro, Lluis Torrens, Rena Massuyama, Daniel Raventós, Julen Bollain, Elizabeth Rhodes, Mayte Quintanilla and Sonja Scherndl.
From the top down, and left to right: Philippe Van Parijs, Rena Massuyama, Scott Santens, Elizabeth Rhodes, Ping Xu, Guy Standing, Louise Haagh, Julen Bollain, Daniel Raventós, Cosima Kern, Lluis Torrens, Sara Bizarro
The documentary talks about UBI as a human right and about Basic Income as an ideal that has been gaining public support in the last few years, especially since automation threatens to leave a large part of the population without employment. The interviews feature academics and activists who share their experience and their Basic Income initiatives all around the world. The director, Álvaro Orús, said in an interview: “At the world congress there was a new sensitivity, the impression that it was the beginning of a new world”, and the documentary captures this spirit. The documentary will also be shown at the 18th BIEN Congress in Finland.
You can view a trailer of the documentary here.
More information at:
Sara Bizarro, “The 17th Bien Congress”, Basic Income News, October 5th 2017