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Could an unconditional income solve poverty?
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In this edition of U-talk our question comes from Mary in Dublin. She asked: “The idea of an unconditional basic income is not new. But the economic crisis has brought it back to the spotlight. How can a basic income fight poverty?”

Philippe Van Parijs is a philosopher and a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and at Oxford University in the UK.

He answered: “A basic income is an income that is paid in a completely unconditional way to all the members of a particular community.

“It’s also unconditional in the sense that it is given to the rich as well as to the poor and unconditional in the sense that it does not require any willingness to work or any work as a counterpart. What you get is a base on which you can stand rather than a safety net in which you can get stuck.

“And my proposal is then to introduce a very modest basic income that I call a “euro dividend” of 200 euros per person, per month, that would be funded by a EU-level value-added tax.

“Even a basic income of only 200 euros would mean a significant increase – around 30 to 40 percent – in average incomes in countries like Bulgaria and Romania, so that it would involve a significant degree of redistribution towards the poorer states of the EU and at the same time it would act as a systematic buffer, a systematic adjustment whenever there is a change in the relative prosperity of the various countries.

“So the aim of this euro dividend would certainly not be to fight poverty in the richer countries. It would help fight poverty in the poorer countries, but would have a stabilising effect on the whole of the welfare states throughout of the European Union.”

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