To give every citizen a fixed monthly income (which can be added to the salary), without compensation, sufficient to meet his basic needs. Benoit Hamon was the main promoter of this idea in France until his defeat during the presidential elections of 2017. Yet universal income continues to be tested around the world.
Canada, the Forerunner
Between 1974 and 1979, the small Canadian town of Dauphin, in the province of Manitoba, tested the Mincome Program, recalls the HuffPost. Its name comes from the contraction of the terms “Minimal Income”. For five years, its inhabitants were entitled to a minimum income of $20,000 (about €14,000) per year. Contrarily to the idea of a universal – and unconditional – income, the Mincome was calculated according to a specific criterion: if the incomes of the persons concerned did not reach a certain threshold, they were provided with something to fill. If their incomes increased, the allowances decreased proportionately. If no positive and negative results could be drawn, Canada now wishes to reiterate the experience in Ontario. According to RFI, 4,000 people will be drawn in Ontario to benefit from the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIT), for which the province has invested $35 million in Canadian dollars.
When Silicon Valley Funds Universal Income in Kenya
The New York Philanthropic NGO GiveDirectly has been experimenting with universal income in Kenya since October 2016. Directly financed by Silicon Valley’s major players – including the founder of eBay, which invested $493,000 -, the initiative promises, for 12 years, to pay $0.75 a day to 6,000 Kenyans. This amount represents 50% of the average income per inhabitant in the rural areas where the experiments are carried out. The first results, published in March 2017, show a great relief. Some rejoice at last to be able to eat three meals a day, others that they finally have access to care and even to be able to save money. However, this guaranteed financial gain did not generally cause any decrease in motivation among the chosen few, who declare mostly wanting to work all the more to improve their living comfort durably.
How universal income has « revitalized » Indian villages
In February 2017, many press titles, including The Economist, announced the emergence of the idea of universal income in India. This decision follows the successful results published by UNICEF on the pilot experiment in Madhya Pradesh in 2010, where for 18 months each adult received between 200 and 300 rupees (between 2 and 4 euros). Women, on the other hand, received 100 rupees per child. Modest, this income was intended only to finance subsistence needs. What has mainly caused the success of this experiment is precisely this unconditional side, in a country where only 29% of women are employed. With this income, people living below the poverty line were able to invest to renovate their homes or send their children to school. No money have been wasted in drinking or gambling.
The Finnish Scout
Since January 1st of this year, Finland is experiencing universal income. Thus, for 2 years, 2,000 citizens will receive assistance of €560 per month. With this test – which will cost the country €20 million – the government wants to avoid the “disincentive effect” of a return to work for the unemployed, who sometimes see more interest in staying without to work for a low wage. This experiment has attracted worldwide attention, including the New York Times, which titled « Why Finland’s Basic Income Experiment Is Not Working » on July 20. According to the newspaper, the Finnish test was botched and is nothing but a blow of publicity to boast the generosity of the government after its poor performances in economic terms. Kela, the Finnish social security institution, has therefore selected “randomly” the 2,000 happy guinea-pigs, who were already benefiting from certain advantages linked to their unemployment. What is more, 2,000 people is not enough to get an idea of how the measure would be doing at national level.
Mark Zuckerberg, spokesman for the basic income made in Alaska
On his personal blog (Facebook), the entrepreneur recounted on July 4 his little family trip to Alaska. He points out what has particularly stroke him is the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), a sort of universal income created in 1976 by then Governor Jay Hammond. The principle is simple: the state harvests the profits linked to the oil and then returns it to each inhabitant at the end of the year, like a premium. In 2016, the PFD was of $1,022 (€866). In the same publication, Zuckerberg explains that “when you lose money, you adopt a survivor mentality. But when you win, you are confident about your future and you start looking for investment opportunities. The economy in Alaska created this winning mentality, which led to the establishment of the PFD. This is a lesson for the rest of the country”.