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A universal income - what it is and how it works

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A universal income - what it is and how it works

This week UTalk fields a question from Maya in Brussels who asks: “To fight against precarity and social inequality, some suggest the creation of a universal income, also called basic income. What is it about?”

The answer comes from Julien Damon, sociologist and associate professor at Science-Po Paris.

“For me, the term ‘universal income’ is the most common and globally it is also the most explicit. Even if there are different terms as you mentioned it – ‘citizen’s income’, ‘basic income’, ‘unconditional income’ – fundamentally they all defend the same idea: granting everyone an equal amount (= of money).

‘What is important with universal income is the fact that it is unconditional: it is granted by public authorities to everyone without any condition in return, and especially without any condition of work.

‘Though whatever they call it, universal income’s supporters pursue two very different aims: for some, universal income is meant to complete the welfare state system with a basic income, with a kind of floor, of base that everybody can access.

‘On the contrary, others want to totally transform the existing welfare state system into a very simple system, an empowering system where everyone gets an income but in exchange have to deal on their own with health insurance and pension issues for example.

‘Thousands of questions still have to be answered such as: to what geographical extent universal income should be implemented? Today cities – in the Netherlands and in the US for instance – want to put it in place; some countries as well, such as Finland.

‘Another question is: how to finance a universal income? The main source of financing could be to increase taxes such as income taxes, corporate taxes as well as taxes on donation and inheritance.”

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Basic income in Finland

Former UTalk on basic income

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