|EU poverty is eating into the heart of society.
In 2012, 124.5 million people, or 24.8 % of the population, in the EU-28 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with 24.3 % in 2011. The reduction of the number of persons at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU is one of the key targets of the Europe 2020 strategy.
Since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, the poverty risk has increased in almost half of EU member states, according to the EU. Bulgaria has seen the most drastic developments. In 2011, around half the population was threatened by poverty or social exclusion.
The amount of food aid distributed to people in Europe by the Red Cross has reached levels not seen since World War II. The economic crisis is putting millions at risk of poverty. Bulgaria and Spain are most affected.
Today, the International Red Cross distributes food aid in almost 20 EU member states as result of rising poverty levels. In Spain alone, some three million people now depend on help to survive. The Red Cross does not just distribute food aid, but also supports the needy with financial aid to pay rent, water and electricity bills.
What is Unconditional Basic Income?
An Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is a recurring, universal payment to everyone - as an individual right, without means test or any obligation to work or perform other services in return, and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and participation in society. The current social security systems are demeaning and inadequate in addressing the roots of poverty. UBI would transform social security from a compensatory system into an emancipatory system, one that trusts people to make their own decisions, and does not stigmatize them for their circumstances.
It should be high enough to guarantee everyone a dignified existence. It would let people make choices about what to do in life without fear of poverty. It would act as a cushion for the increasing numbers of people who have short-term or zero-hour contracts, and those starting up their own businesses. It's a guaranteed income, given to all in addition to any other income they might receive. By advancing equality and economic participation while enabling simpler welfare systems, UBI leads to a fairer and more efficient society.
Many financing schemes have been elaborated over the years in several countries. The European Initiative for UBI is asking for further studies to be started at the EU level.
On January 14th 2013, the European Commission accepted the European Citizens' Initiative for an Unconditional Basic Income hence triggering a one-year campaign involving all countries in the European Union.
Before January 14, 2014, we have to collect one million statements of support with minimum numbers reached for at least 7 member states. If we collect one million statements of support for Basic Income from the 500 million inhabitants of the European Union, the European Commission will have to examine our initiative carefully and arrange for a public hearing in the European Parliament.
On the 15th of December 2013, 33 members of the European Parliament from 12 different European Countries issued a joint statement of support for the European Citizens' Initiative for an Unconditional Basic Income.
What should be the amount of the basic income according to the initiative?
The amount should provide for a decent standard of living, which meets society’s social and cultural standards in the country concerned. It should prevent material poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society. This means that the net income should, at a minimum, be at the poverty-risk level according to EU standards, which corresponds to 60% of the so-called national median net equivalent income. Especially in countries where the majority have low incomes, and therefore median income is low, an alternative benchmark (e.g. a basket of goods) should be used to determine the amount of the basic income, to guarantee a life in dignity, material security and full participation in society."
For more information about minimum income, minimum allowances and basic income in Europe:
Why ask for new studies?
This initiative is not just about feasibility studies. It is about embedding UBI within the agenda of the EU institutions.
In many countries, studies have demonstrated that a basic income is possible to finance at the national level. See the literature on the Basic Income Earth Network website at http://www.basicincome.org. However relevant the idea of UBI is for Europe right now, one has to consider the fact that no European country has implemented it yet. As a consequence, the EU commission can hardly harmonize, or push a proposal that doesn’t exist yet anywhere in the EU.
Hence the need to consider seriously how a European basic income scheme could work, and we believe that having the EU institutions as a stakeholder of this reflexion can only accelerate its implementation.
But most of all, this initiative is really about raising awareness about Basic Income at the international level as well as the national and local one. We believe that the challenge of collecting one million signatures will encourage people from every country of the EU to organize themselves for making a great campaign that will finally convince more people about the importance of the idea of Basic Income in these times of harsh crisis for lots of people.