In Utrecht, one of the cities experimenting with UBI
Giacomo Tognini

Imagine receiving a check from the government every month. The concept of guaranteed basic income for all citizens has been gaining prominence around the world, leading to referendums and national political debate in several countries.

Known by different names, a policy of "universal basic income" (UBI) is a form of government assistance where every citizen receives a monthly income — regardless of their age or employment status. In a referendum in June last year, 76.9% of Swiss voters rejected a proposal that would have enshrined basic income as a constitutional right. But despite the Swiss setback, the idea is gaining currency elsewhere in Europe and beyond. Recently, the foundation run by billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar laid out $493,000 to help fund a UBI program in Kenya.

Here are five different basic income schemes around the world:



FINLAND

On Jan. 1, the Finnish government launched a two-year pilot scheme that will provide 2,000 unemployed citizens with a basic income of 560 euros ($595) per month. The recipients, all between the ages of 25 and 58, were chosen at random and will receive the funds even if they find employment in the next two years.

"Now I can concentrate on what I truly want to do, instead of having to deal with the bureaucracy," Sini Marttinen, 31, told Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The center-right Finnish government is spending 20 million euros ($21.2 million) on the experiment. If successful, Finland will implement it nationwide at a cost of 15 billion euros ($16 billion) — up from the current 13.4 to 14.5 billion that Helsinki spends on its welfare state.



INDIA

India's annual economic survey released last month included a lengthy section proposing a universal basic income of 7,620 rupees a year ($114) for all Indian citizens, though a national rollout is not expected anytime soon.

Every rupee helps — Photo: Sudheesh S

This is not the country's first experiment with basic income, notes Indian newspaper The Hindu. An 18-month basic income trial took place in 2010 in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, home to 73 million people. The trial provided more than 6,000 individuals in eight villages with unconditional cash transfers that ranged from 100 to 300 rupees per month ($1.5 to $4.5). Designed to supplement the income of families living under the poverty line, a study showed that the trial resulted in a sharp increase in food sufficiency and a drop in illness in villages that received the funds compared to those that did not.




ITALY

Since a new policy was unveiled a year-and-a-half ago, citizens and foreign residents in the small northeastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia have had the right to financial assistance ranging from 70 to 550 euros ($75 to $555) per month over two years. Out of a population of 1.2 million, 32,000 applied for assistance, which is only given as long as recipients can prove they are seeking employment.

According to La Stampa, the policy is not strictly a basic income program and regional authorities instead term it an "active measure of income assistance". Recipients are required to accept employment if it's offered to them — including internships and part-time work — and must enter rehab programs if they are substance addicts.



FRANCE

Basic income has become a major campaign issue in France, where voters go to the polls in late April to elect a new president. The issue was raised during last month's Socialist Party primaries when candidate Benoît Hamon proposed a universal income of 750 euros ($800) per month for all French citizens over 18 years of age. He went on to win the primaries.

Benoît Hamon on Jan. 29 — Photo: Marion Germa

French daily Le Monde writes that if Hamon wins the presidential election, his campaign advocates implementing an income of 600 euros ($638) for all citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 in 2017, which will be raised to 750 euros within five years. Though he is currently languishing fourth in the polls with 15% of the likely vote, the election is still considered wide open.


NETHERLANDS

The Dutch city of Utrecht began an experiment in basic income at the beginning of this year by providing 250 citizens receiving unemployment assistance with a guaranteed monthly income of 960 euros per month ($1,020). Other groups of people will be given more money if they volunteer — part of a study comparing the effects of different basic income programs.

The experiment is part of a project called "Weten Wat Werkt", or "Know What Works," that's aimed at comparing the possibilities of a universal basic income approach with the Dutch welfare system that's currently in place. Three other Dutch cities have launched similar experiments in basic income and more are scheduled to participate, reports Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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