The Universal Basic Income, A promising idea?

François Denuit

In 2016, Switzerland will hold an unprecedented referendum. Citizens will be asked to vote in favor of or against a radical idea: an unconditional basic income of 2,500 Swiss Francs (about 2,000 €) for all adults. Under Swiss law citizens can organize popular initiatives if they manage to gather 100,000 signatures. The organizers of the Basic Income Initiative managed to collect more than 125,000 signatures in favor of this innovative form of financial safety net. The element of direct democracy that characterizes the Helvetian society might therefore be able to offer a quantum leap in answering the problems of poverty and unemployment. But what about the rest of Europe?

In the current European context of economic instability, political distrust, surging unemployment rates and rising inequalities, the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) must at least be discussed. While most of our politicians find the idea unattractive or politically risky, the UBI is nevertheless currently at the forefront of the public debate in many countries. Besides the well-known Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) powered by contributions from professionals and academics, many popular initiatives have emerged. Journals, campaigns and networks all testify of the pro-active stand which the e(u)-Generation has taken in this EU-wide discussion. This article therefore aims to summarize the main characteristics of this renascent idea.

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This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.