Wednesday, May 09, 2018

UBI - No solution

Would the universal basic income (or universal allowance) be the miracle reform that reduces social inequalities and relieves millions of people from the threat of poverty? Mateo Alaluf, author of the book “Universal Basic Income. New Label of Precariousness” (“Allocation Universelle. Nouveau label de précarité”), and co-editor of the anthology “Against the Universal Basic Income” (“Contre l’allocation universelle”) answers no. It presents an alternative not for the left but an alternative to the left, he says.

There are as many types of universal income as there are people promoting them. They differ mainly by their degree of unconditionality, their amounts, their degree of substitution for social security and their method of financing.

 The experimentation of a basic income of €560 per month granted to a population of 2000 unemployed people in Finland is currently very discussed. It has been implemented by a right-wing government made up of three parties, Kesk (center), True Finns (extreme right) and Kok (conservative nationalist), as part of an austerity policy aimed at reducing public spending and containing wages.

The main motivation for this initiative is that an unemployed person currently receives a large number of benefits (unemployment, housing, child, etc.) and that a job, in order to reach the level of the unemployment benefits collected by an unemployed person, must correspond to a monthly gross income of €2,300. The goal of granting this basic income is therefore to reduce unemployment spending, to contain wage costs and to reduce the current 9% unemployment. We are far from the promise of a universal income.
We are actually far from principles that usually constitute unconditional income. Such a system, even if watered down, entails the risk of lower wages and a subsidy to employers. Assuming that a young person receives an allowance of €750 for example, can one assume that his employer will not take it into account to define his salary? The door would, in any case, be opened in France to the youth SMIC (2) that had been up to now fought by the youth and by all the left.
One can certainly devise unconditional income formulas that, by departing from the principle of hard unconditionality advocated by its promoters, can be conceived without affecting social protections too much. But when the left subscribes to this perspective, it loses its compass, which is not equality of opportunity but equality, and deserts the battlefield of the conflict between capital and labor.
Sadly the author can offer no better alternative than defending and increasing the role of the welfare state

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