Politics & Policies

Universal Basic Income Pilots – They may look and smell like a UBI, but they aren’t.

The annual conference of the Basic Income Earth Network focused on implementation and shed light on a range of experiences worldwide, namely the “pilots” that are quoted in virtually every blog on the subject.

On this point, the salience of UBI pilots doesn’t appear to be the technical questions they raise. Rather, their value probably lies elsewhere—that is, in the wider societal debates they help elicit.

Let me elaborate. There are plenty of ongoing trials around the globe, but each seems to miss at least one key feature of UBI, if not most of its defining elements. A UBI consists of the provision of cash, paid every month, for an amount that at least closes the poverty gap, provided by the state with no strings attached, and evenly distributed to everyone in a polity.

And yet, from Finland to the Netherlands, from the United States to Canada, current experiments seem variants of traditional interventions, including targeting particular profiles of people (e.g., the “unemployed”), in most cases through means-testing and for specific age cohorts. They may look and smell like a UBI, but they aren’t.

These trials may enhance our understanding of important micro-questions, but they will not propel us forward decidedly on core, big-ticket quandaries. Trials may not fully inform about how to situate UBI in the social protection landscape—which schemes should it replace, which not, why, and how to do so. We need to know about its effects on social services, fiscal space, tax regimes, inflation, firms, pensions, minimum wage, and the harder-to-quantify overall social contract. For pilots to be compelling, they should be large-enough in scale and scope to affect such systemic issues. But if that is too far-fetched, small-scale trials should at least be designed as a pure UBI.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Universal basic income pilots: Setting expectations right

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