Notes on Unconditional Basic Income

There has been an European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – open to be signed for a year (ending on 15th of January 2014). It’s aim has been to put pressure on both the European Commission and other EU authorities to act on supporting and implementing studies and pilot projects for an unconditional basic income in Europe.

Unconditional basic income (UBI) defined as a regular, universal payment to everyone – as an individual right, without means test or the obligation to work or perform other services in return. Furthermore a payment, high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and allows an active participation in society. Radically distinct to a minimum wage, welfare or unemployment money. There are several models around on how this could be financed, different approaches including – still all of them making clear, as long as there is political intend, there will be a way.

One Million signatures would have been needed to ensure the European Commission has to examine the initiative carefully and arrange a public hearing in the European Parliament. It did not succeed. A number of 285.000 EU citizens have been signing (not including invalid ones, such as these signatures, from people, not supplying their passport number – only asked for in some of the European member states). Details about states involved and their number of signatures can be found on the initiatives’ webpage.

The ECIs organizer, together with his also relentless partner, Klaus and Ulli Sambor, have been our guests for the Future Lunchbox on 19th of June. They offered a broad spectrum of information, based on the results, the evaluation and the future of the European Citizens’ Initiative on unconditional basic income.

Along several underpinning facts, numbers and administrative barriers, the extended lunch was very positively inspired by and with future visions, passions and motivations for possible and/or already launched next steps.

Even if the aimed one million signees haven’t been reached, Klaus and Ulli Sambor emphasize the spark, the raise of awareness throughout Europe towards the impact and effects done through the implementation of such a system. Clearly shown in the fact, that the day the ECI ended, was pretty much the first day of a new network: Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE).  A network of organisations and individuals sharing the idea, that a Unconditional Basic Income is a sustainable, a long term solution, for our societies. Since this very day, the movement is growing and raising European-wide attention.

The UBIE charter, very similar to the one from the ECI in 2013, is very clear in its goals and definitions: The Unconditional Basic Income is aimed to be universal – meaning every(!)one gets it – irrespective to citizenship, age, job,… UBI will be paid individually, independent of income or property of other household or family members. It will be obviously not tied to any conditions (i.e obligation to take a paid employment) and it has to be high enough to enable a decent standard of living for a single person (in reference to the standards of the countries it is paid-out).

There is a lot more to learn about all these ideas and especially on how everyone of us, being spirited by them, can participate on all sorts of levels. They have been so friendly to make documents used and referred to during their talk available (be aware – all of them in german though).

– Pressemitteilung zum BIEN Kongress 2014
– Sustainable Austria – Deutsch
– Vortragsunterlagen

A few relevant links / information

Basic Income Austria Österreich
Attac-Community on Basic Income (deutsch/german)
Unconditional Basic Income Europe
Basic Income Earth Network

A book which they warmly recommended: Wilkinson, R., Pickett, K., 2011. The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin, London; New York.
German version of it: Pickett, K., Wilkinson, R., 2010. Gleichheit ist Glück: Warum gerechte Gesellschaften für alle besser sind, Auflage: 4. ed. Tolkemitt bei Zweitausendeins, Hamburg.

A documentary mentioned within the discussion can be found here – also very recommendable: Häni, D., Schmidt, E., The Basic Income (2008).

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