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Universal income soon to be tested in Germany

A basic income of 1,200 euros per month for three years: this is what a German research institute and an association of 122 volunteers promise. 1.6 million people had volunteered just one week after the launch of the pilot project.

Anne-Sophie de Nanteuil

A basic income of 1,200 euros per month for three years: this is what a German research institute and an association of 122 volunteers promise. 1.6 million people had volunteered just one week after the launch of the pilot project.

After Finland in 2017, universal income is making a comeback. The German apolitical institute DIW announced in mid-August its decision to carry out the experiment thus consisting in paying a fixed monthly sum to the citizens of a country, without any particular compensation and regardless of social status or financial resources.

Over the months, the economic research center will assess the social impact, but also the consequences of the measure on the labor market or on the real estate market. It will be financed by the militant association “Mein Grundeinkommen” (“my basic salary”).

Strong criticism

The experience very quickly aroused the enthusiasm of the population. In just a few days, more than 1.6 million adults had already volunteered to participate, but only 120 applicants were selected. From February 2021, the lucky ones will therefore receive a basic income of 1,200 euros every month for three years and will have to regularly answer questions.

Unsurprisingly, the possible establishment of a universal income in the long term, however, arouses criticism. Among the main arguments, the possible deviation of the “value of work” or incitement to laziness. Some opponents feared that the measure would encourage the active to quit their jobs and the unemployed to abandon research. There are also many reservations about its cost to the state coffers, estimated at nearly 100 billion euros per year.

Precedents in Europe

In addition, the size of the test population chosen for lack of money by DIW is singled out. Some consider it too small – 120 people out of more than 83 million inhabitants – to draw any lessons from it. But on this point, the institute defends itself: “We will only draw conclusions from our observations in the field if we can empirically corroborate them with our economic models”, explains Jürgen Schupp.

If Germany, the leading economic power in Europe, wishes to study the question in concrete terms, it is not the first to try the experiment. In June 2017, Finland also carried out the large-scale experimentation for a year with the country’s unemployed. The findings of the study were somewhat disappointing: despite a notable improvement in the well-being of these citizens, the effect on employment was non-existent.

Despite everything, the idea continues to seduce almost everywhere in Europe. In the midst of the health crisis, Spain has thus established a “minimum living income” of 440 euros per month for the poorest who cannot claim unemployment benefits. Across the Channel, some 170 British parliamentarians also supported the idea with the Johnson government on the verge of confinement last March. In Luxembourg, however, the issue has never been raised.


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