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:
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.