Published October 8, 2014
Pirates have proposed a congressional statement, directing the Welfare Minister to implement a guaranteed minimum income, what in recent years has also gone under the name of universal basic income or citizen wage.
More precisely, the proposal, made by Halldóra Mogensen, Jón Þór Ólafsson and Birgitta Jónsódttir on Monday, would instruct the Minister to form a team to “map ways to ensure an unconditional minimum income for all the country’s citizens, with the aim to support economic and social rights and eliminate poverty.”
The minimum income movement has risen and gained grounds in various countries in recent years. As cited in the exposition, Switzerland will vote on an implementation of the idea in 2016.
‘Liberty, Equality, Efficiency and Solidarity’
The proposal’s exposition states that in 2013, over 42 thousand people in Iceland, 13,7% of the population, subsisted below the low-income benchmark and/or in danger of social exclusion.
The exposition says that guaranteed minimum income differs from the conditional minimum income common in European welfare systems, by being paid to individuals rather than households, by being independent from other income and by not requiring the individual to have been employed or to be willing to take on any job available.
The authors cite guaranteed income experiments in the USA and Canada between 1968 and 1980, where such programs were found to have little effect on the job market, but ‘considerable effect’ on the physical and mental health of participants. The MINCOME program implemented in Manitoba, Canada between 1974 and 1979, for example, is said to have reduced total healthcare costs by 8.5%.
Authors referred to in support of the proposal include the 18th century English-American revolutionary philosopher Thomas Paine and the 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell, who suggested such an arrangement as early as 1918. The authors say that fundamental underlying notions include ‘liberty, equality, efficiency and solidarity, the earth as a common good of all its inhabitants’ and more.
Facing Future Challenges
The authors of the proposal also cite the 2013 Oxford University report ‘The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to computerization?’, where 47% of all jobs in the US are said in danger of extinction at the hands of technological progress. The fields of transport, communication, office work, administration and production are all predicted to be heavily affected. “It is clear,” states the exposition, “that the current social security system will not be able to handle the costs of this immense technological progress.”
The current social security system, composed of conditional income guarantees, unemployment benefits and municipal financial support, is said to be complex, costly and incoherent, while involving massive information gathering and surveillance. An unconditional guaranteed income may, according to the proposal, thus reduce public expenditure on multiple levels.