Unconditional basic income

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The unconditional basic income ( UBI ) is a socio-political financial transfer concept according to which every citizen - regardless of their economic situation - receives a legally stipulated and equal financial benefit paid by the state for everyone without having to provide anything in return ( transfer service ). It is most often discussed in financial transfer models as a financial performance that no other income or conditional social assistance living wage would - for example in the form of a citizens' money . The discussion about a UBI is given impetus in times of observable or possibly threatened losses in human jobs, mainly due to technological rationalization processes under market economy conditions or due to underemployment, as has been foreseen or feared in part in the course of the digital revolution . The name of the idea differs according to language area; in the USA, for example, the concept is mainly discussed under the names Basic Income Guarantee ( BIG ) and Unconditional Basic Income ( UBI ), also known as Universal Basic Income .

The idea of ​​allowing every member of society to share in the total income of this society without need is discussed in many countries. The idea of negative income tax developed by Milton Friedman in 1962, among others, follows a similar approach . Juliet Rhys-Williams proposed a social dividend in 1943 , as well as unconditional income as a negative income tax in 1942 . The models of a UBI discussed in Germany include, for example, the solidarity citizens' money ( Althaus model), the Ulm model or the model of the Entrepreneurship initiative founded by Götz Werner .


Classification of the various concepts
Explanatory video (English) for the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) 'Unconditional Basic Income' (UBI) (2013)

The concept of the BGE provides for a grant for everyone. Neither a socio-administrative means test would be carried out, nor would a willingness to work be required. On the other hand, all general tax-financed social benefits such as unemployment benefit , social assistance or child benefit are omitted .

A special model is the negative income tax, which exists in the USA as Earned Income Tax Credit and in Great Britain (Working Families Tax Credit) and goes back to a proposal by Milton Friedman from 1962. Just like the UBI, the negative income tax can be designed in such a way that the willingness to accept a job with a higher social transfer does not suffer. The UBI differs from a state-organized basic security , which is only paid if no other sufficient income is available and which is linked to a means test.

In Germany, depending on the model, a payment in the amount of the social assistance rate or unemployment benefit II up to a payment of 1500 euros per month is proposed. A UBI can, however, also be below the subsistence level (so-called partial basic income). Anyone who would like to have more income in addition to the UBI could still earn this (through gainful employment ). If this earned income is not offset against the UBI, earned income and basic income - unlike in the previous system - are not in competition with one another. Some models (such as the old house model) provide for a decrease in the basic income with increasing income. If the transfer withdrawal rate for the basic income is below the applicable withdrawal rate of ALG II, it can be concluded that in a system with UBI there is a higher incentive to take up work.


In the discussion about the UBI, very different arguments are put forward. These can be divided into humanitarian arguments that relate to people's living conditions and economic arguments that focus on economic benefits for society.

Humanitarian approach

Götz Werner (2010) in Darmstadt

The basic justification of a UBI is seen in the fact that it enables everyone to lead a life in dignity. The BGE creates the prerequisite for individual freedom for self-realization even with activities that are not paid as gainful employment. In this context, it is discussed whether the unconditional basic income as an instrument of freedom to liberalism out of the crisis can.

The social development has meant that only part of the activities in modern, market-oriented society are paid as gainful employment. Activities in the social area, such as raising children, caring for non-self-employed people (old people, disabled people) or youth work, on the other hand, are usually not financially remunerated unless these activities are institutionalized. The BGE provides a balance here.

In addition, the stigmatization of the unemployed, which is inevitable for a large number of people if the system is unemployed, is eliminated . A society that systematically accepts this stigmatization of the unemployed violates human dignity and the basic right to work . The BGE leads to an improvement in social security , enables participation , avoids exclusion and allows alternative life plans such as educational phases that interrupt gainful employment.

The BGE system is clear and creates trust in society. This increases the individual willingness to take risks. Independence and entrepreneurship and thus innovation and flexibility would be promoted. The employees would become more self-confident and no longer “stuck” in one place. The greater independence reduces the internal competition, reduces bullying and improves the working atmosphere with the result that negative stress and mental illnesses decrease.

The BGE not only promotes the emancipation and independence of women, but through the introduction of a BGE many citizens have more time and financial opportunities to deal more intensively with political issues, to become active and thus to participate in a lively democracy.

Götz Werner , anthroposophist and founder of the company dm-drogerie markt , is of the opinion that an unconditional basic income would, according to the laws of free markets , lead to previously poorly paid but necessary work being better paid, made more attractive or replaced by automated processes . For necessary or widely desired work, appealing and rewarding employment relationships would inevitably be created, and for sufficiently attractive or lucrative job offers there would always be enough willingness to work in the medium and medium term. The result would therefore be a labor market that is based on supply and demand, which does not exist in today's market economy because of the pressure to work .

Economic approach

With a view to the economy , this approach argues that more than half of the population in the modern welfare society is already dependent on the incomes of others or on social benefits. This situation will worsen due to the age structure . At the same time, the need for workers in industry is structurally falling due to continuous technical progress . Tying social security to an ever-decreasing base would lead to a burden on company wage costs , which would increasingly worsen the international competitiveness of the economy. On the employer's side, a UBI reduces the ancillary wage costs .

Furthermore, the current social system is criticized for the fact that it creates many costs through the bureaucracy that comes about, for example, through the necessary tests of entitlement to certain transfer payments. According to the economic approach, the UBI should reduce such expenses. The costs thus eliminated would be invested, for example, in the financing of the welfare state or other state tasks. At the moment, market-based processes are constantly being interfered with and the framework conditions are being redesigned, which leads to inefficiency and social injustice. The two economists Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee plead for a small unconditional basic income, a Universal Ultra Basic Income (UUBI) for emerging and developing countries to build a UBI and explain this using the example of India with the current subsidies and work programs. If there were no benefits, the tax system would be further simplified.

In 2011, around 14,235 euros per capita per year in government expenditure were made in Germany (a total of 1162 billion euros). For 2016, social benefits in Germany totaled 918 billion euros.


In Thomas More 's novel Utopia (1516), instead of punishing thieves, it was proposed that all people in the country should be paid some kind of livelihood in order to prevent theft.

Juan Luis Vives (1492–1540) developed the ideas of his friend Thomas More in the text De Subventione Pauperum ( On Support for the Poor , 1526) on a guaranteed minimum income. In his appeal to the mayor and aldermen of the city of Bruges, Vives argued not with a principle of justice, but with the Christian-Jewish duty to love one's neighbor. He also believed that public welfare was more effective than private handouts . At Vives, the help required was linked to proof of a willingness to work. Vives' thinking later influenced the ideas of Montesquieu : "The state owes all of its residents a secure livelihood, food, appropriate clothing and a lifestyle that does not affect their health."

Thomas Paine (1737–1809) developed his idea in a report ( Agrarian Justice , 1796) addressed to the directorate of the French revolutionary government:

“It is an irrefutable fact that the earth, in its natural, uncultivated nature, has always been and will always be the common property of the human race.

When the land is cultivated, it is only this increase in value that becomes an individual possession and not the earth itself. Every owner should therefore pay a rent of cultivated land (I don't know a better term for this idea) for the land he owns owns. The land lease proposed in this implementation plan will go to a fund. The aim of this fund is to pay every person over the age of 21 the sum of £ 15 as part of the compensation for the loss of their natural heritage due to the introduction of the land ownership system. In addition, a sum of £ 10 per annum is to be paid to everyone currently living aged fifty or over, and to everyone else, rich or poor, when they reach that age. These payments are due to everyone, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, instead of their natural inheritance, to which everyone is entitled regardless of the property that they have accumulated or inherited. "

Charles Fourier

In Paines’s view, equal ownership of the earth justifies unconditional income for all, but not guaranteed income. Thomas Spence criticized Paine for being too timid and demanded in The Rights of the Children (1797) to auction the rights of use to land in a community and to distribute the proceeds evenly after deducting the community costs. Numerous nineteenth-century reformers, such as William Cobbett (1827), Samuel Read (1829) and Poulet Scrope (1833) in England interpreted it to mean that the basis was a guaranteed income scheme rather than a public welfare scheme. A well-known representative among them is the French writer Charles Fourier (1836: 490–492). In La Fausse Industrie (1836), Fourier argues that the prohibition of fundamental natural rights - such as hunting, fishing, gathering fruit or grazing cattle on communal property - suggests that "civilization" means that everyone who has no means of meeting their needs to cover who owes a living. Victor Considérant, a supporter of Fourier, took a step towards a real basic income in 1845 by emphasizing that if work was a tempting thank you to the Phalanstère system, one must be able to provide a minimum income for the poorer members of society to push ahead, knowing that they owe more than what the year-end will cost them.

In 1848, the Belgian Joseph Charlier published his solution to the social problem ( Solution duproblemème social ou constitution humanitaire ), which can be seen as the first solution that includes a guaranteed basic income. Under the name "Minimum" or "Revenu garanti" (later "State Dividend"), Joseph Charlier proposed that every innocent citizen should receive a quarterly (later a monthly) financial allowance, the amount of which would be determined annually by the government representatives. As with Spence, the source should be the proceeds from the granting of usage rights to natural resources. Private land ownership was incompatible with this concept. In a later book he calls this grant “state dividend”. This program, he argues, would "end the rule of capital over labor." Wouldn't that encourage idleness? Doubtful luck for the lazy: they are only given minimal attention. Society's duty does not go beyond assuring a fair share of what is naturally available without curtailing one's rights. Everything above the minimum must be earned. ”Charlier's contemporary, John Stuart Mill , added the following to the second edition of his book Principles of Political Economy , thereby responding to Fourier's demand for an unchecked basic income:

“The most skillful combination of all forms of socialism and that with the greatest possible objectivity is commonly known as Fourierism. This system does not consider abolishing private property or inheritance; on the contrary, it involves them in an open way - as an allocative factor in generating capital and labor. [...] In the distribution, a certain minimum for the livelihood of each member of society - whether able to work or not - should be specified. The rest of the production is divided in certain proportions to be determined in advance under the three factors: labor, capital and skills. "

Josef Popper-Lynkeus , for example, worked out the first concrete concepts for a guaranteed basic income . In Austria the first proposal was made by Lieselotte Wohlgenannt and Herwig Büchele . From the 1920s onwards, the social credit movement gained considerable popularity in Australia, Great Britain, Canada and New Zealand, with up to 20% of the vote in elections in New Zealand and 54% in the Canadian state of Alberta. One of the core demands was the payment of a basic income ( national dividend ) to all citizens.

Erich Fromm (1974)

In 1955, Erich Fromm pleaded in The sane Society (dt. Ways out of a sick society ) for a work-independent basic income as an extension of existing social insurance and justified this with the right to refuse work for personal reasons without suffering hunger or social ostracism. Every citizen has the right to a subsistence level in the sense of this basic income. Fromm's proposals can be understood against the background of a broad discussion in the USA and Canada . A prominent proponent of a UBI was Martin Luther King . The discussion that had continued in the 1960s and 1970s reached its climax there when US President Lyndon B. Johnson set up a commission in 1967 to deal with the unconditional basic income. There have been pilot projects in the US and Canada that put a negative income tax into practice (e.g. the Mincome in Dauphin, Canada). Although the studies showed that the feared decline in the number of jobs took place only to a very small extent, it was not socio-politically feasible to implement it across the board.

Milton Friedman took up an idea from Abba P. Lerner (1944) in 1962 and saw the negative income tax as an opportunity to simultaneously fight poverty and reduce welfare state bureaucracy and allegations of abuse. Friedman's concept was further developed in a study by James Tobin in 1967 as a possible instrument for social equilibrium. This concept played a role in the 1972 US presidential election under the heading of demogrant . Richard Buckminster Fuller also considered an unconditional basic income in his book Critical Path in 1981 : Unemployment is based directly on the technical possibility of ephemerization . The French social philosopher André Gorz also said that for centuries more and more jobs have been done by machines. The resultant increase in productivity means that less human labor is required even as production increases. The idea of full employment becomes an illusion. That is why Gorz advocated a basic income that enables people to live without working. Everyone receives a monetary basis to realize themselves.


To finance the basic income, a major simplification and reorganization of the tax system is usually provided, as well as much less effort and bureaucracy in the social administration, as previous transfer payments would be replaced by the unconditional basic income. Unemployment benefits , social welfare , pension , educational grants , child benefits and similar benefits would be replaced gradually and eventually eliminated.

There are four dominant model approaches for financing:

  • Taxation of Income
  • Taxation of Consumption
  • Taxation of natural resources (use and consumption)
  • Taxation of monetary transactions

Taxation of Income

The basis for financing would primarily be income tax :

Negative income tax

Course of the net income with negative income tax.

An unconditional basic income can be realized through the concept of negative income tax. This creates a basic income as a tax amount to be reimbursed by the authorities, which is offset against the tax liability on earned income. In doing so, earned income is initially charged with a tax rate - which is usually constant in the models under discussion . The basic income is then deducted from the tax liability. If the resulting amount is negative because the tax liability is lower than the basic income, this amount is paid out; otherwise the amount must be paid to the tax authorities. People without an income from work receive the full basic income. With every additional income, the net income increases by the income multiplied by the tax rate, so that there is always an incentive to earn additional income. It should be noted that despite the constant marginal tax rate generally assumed, the effective tax rate is progressive .

Ulm transfer limit model

Course of the net income in the Ulm transfer limit model.

The unconditional basic income according to the Ulm transfer limit model would in principle be paid to all citizens in the amount of the subsistence level to be determined by the legislature. The citizens 'money would be financed from a citizens' money levy with no income. This levy, which would be levied on a pay-as-you-go basis, would be a fixed percentage of gross income . The Ulm model corresponds to a negative income tax in which the tax rate changes at the transfer limit.

Solidarity citizen money

The former Thuringian Prime Minister Dieter Althaus is demanding an unconditional basic income called solidarity citizenship of 600 euros gross for everyone (minus 200 euros for basic health insurance). Most state transfer payments are to be bundled with it. Unemployment benefit I and the old-age pension are to be retained. Furthermore, a citizen's allowance is to be introduced to cover costs for accommodation and social emergencies. In addition, a parental pension is to be introduced. The concept is linked to an extensive restructuring ("system change") in tax and social policy . A study carried out by Michael Opielka and Wolfgang Strengmann-Kuhn for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation came to the conclusion that the Althaus concept could be financed. Dieter Althaus assumes in his calculation that the solidarity citizens' money forms 27.7 billion euros in annual reserves and generates a surplus of 58.5 billion euros. This does not include additional tax income from newly created full-time positions and savings from the reduction of bureaucracy. The Hamburg World Economic Institute is assuming that 520,000 to 1.17 million new jobs will be created in the long term due to the increased incentive to work. The German Federal Government's Advisory Council is assuming that almost 1.2 million new full-time positions will be created.

Taxation of Consumption

In the model developed by Götz Werner , income tax , wage tax and social security contributions would be dispensed with, which is why every gross income would be paid out as net income. In this model, the basic income is financed by sales tax (VAT), which replaces all other taxes and social security contributions that have been levied to date.

Götz Werner starts from the premise that the tax burden would not increase as a result of a change from income tax to consumption tax , but would basically remain the same, since all taxes, including income-related taxes in the corporate sector, are already hidden in the prices. According to Werner, the current tax system is a relic of the past and must be fundamentally changed for the introduction of his BGE model. The aim is to achieve a basic income at a culturally appropriate level, at the moment 1000 € per month are under discussion. This should be achieved over several stages through a gradual increase in VAT . How high the basic income actually turns out, however, is a question of social consensus . Due to the required VAT rate of 100% on the net prices, the real prices would not increase. All taxes and duties that are levied during the manufacture of a product or service are already included in the prices (the state quota in Germany is around 50%). Götz Werner argues that these taxes and levies would be removed step by step in the event of a changeover, so that the net price would decrease. By adding VAT, the original price would be returned. The purchasing power would therefore remain the same.

Product price at the checkout 150 €
Less the government quota of 50% −75 €
Results in a net amount of 0€ 75
Now 100% VAT will be added + € 75
Returns the original price 150 €
for imported products
Product price at the checkout 150 €
Less the government quota of 19% (VAT share of 119%) −24 €
Results in a net amount of 126 €
Now 100% VAT will be added + € 126+
Makes a 68% higher price € 252

If no export duties or taxes were levied with this model , exported goods would be significantly cheaper:

For exported products
Product price at the checkout € 150.00
Net price in the current system (19% VAT) € 126.05
Net price according to the new system (export 40% cheaper) 0€ 75.00

The problem is that an increase in VAT also increases the incentive to avoid it through undeclared work and other "OR transactions" (without an invoice). Legal means, such as barter rings , would allow the shadow economy to grow and become increasingly undesirable.

Taxation of Natural Resources

Individual voices in science and research as well as in the political arena are in favor of a basic income ( citizens' dividend ) financed from the skimming off of economic rents ( basic pension theory ). Mostly they refer to the physiocrats of the 18th century, to Thomas Paine , Thomas Spence and Joseph Charlier (see Chapter 9.1 in this article), to the American economist Henry George (1839–1897) or to the social - and money reformer Silvio Gesell (1862–1930). An example of redistributing a country's resource rent back to its citizens in the form of an unconditional dividend is the Alaska Permanent Fund .

According to the advocates of this approach, the pension income could initially finance the core government tasks and cover the fixed costs of the public infrastructure . The remaining income could be distributed to the citizens as a basic income, as a dividend . In contrast to the financing of a basic income from income or consumption taxes, which would decouple income (benefits) and work (expenditure) from each other more than before, benefits and costs would be more closely linked here: Those who use resources disproportionately pay more than they do gets back. Those who use below average are rewarded for it, so they get paid out more than they paid for. For the average resource user, tax payments and basic income are in balance. That leads to a fairness of participation and resources . According to rough calculations, a five percent taxation of the land value in Germany would already result in income of 100 billion euros per year, i.e. around 1,250 euros per resident. According to the logic of the concept, rents and food prices per capita would increase by an average of these 1,250 euros. Dirk Löhr has a basic income for Germany of approx. 1,000 to 2,500 euros per resident and year for representable, with simultaneous abolition u. a. the VAT. With the additional abolition of the pay-as-you-go social security, up to 7500 euros per person per year can be achieved.

Taxation of monetary transactions

Financial transaction tax or micro tax . See also Basic Income Initiative, section Financing, Taxes, Social Systems - Proposals and Discussion .

In payments, the "300 times as large as the gross domestic product," the Swiss sociologist, political and business economist suggests Oswald Sigg , a load of z. B. 0.05%. “This would finance the basic income. According to the principle: whoever moves more money pays more. ”Over 90 percent of the volume comes“ from the financial sector, such as high-frequency trading . ”In addition, everyone asked about taxes:“ Do we no longer have to pay taxes in the future? ”Says Sigg: “Yes. But only 1 or 2 per thousand of each payment amount. "

Richard David Precht also speaks out in favor of a financial transaction tax as the financing basis for a UBI, referring to the Swiss model. From an economic point of view, this should prevent financial market speculation from being more worthwhile than investing in the real economy. “A financial transaction tax makes financial markets more stable and reduces gambling in the stock exchange casino. Losers are only extreme gamblers and nobody else. "

Pros and cons in the discussion

Positions of parties, trade unions, churches and associations

  • In 2006, a basic program committee discussed Dieter Althaus' model in the CDU . The former CDU general secretary Ronald Pofalla said in an interview that he considered the model to be visionary because “any form of social bureaucracy” would be eliminated: “no more forms, no means test”. Citizens' benefits could also lead to people "finally withdrawing from the working society". The CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation , chaired by Bernhard Vogel, considers the concept to be affordable. In July 2017, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel considered the BGE “not a good idea”. She argued that the system of an unconditional basic income contradicted the principle that "the solidarity welfare state helps when there is need."
  • The former SPD general secretary Hubertus Heil criticized the Althaus plans for a basic income as a "shutdown bonus". People would be "labeled as useless" and "settled with money". Stephan Lessenich developed an expertise on basic income for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which is close to the SPD . The governing mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller (SPD), promotes the concept of a solidary basic income : people should not be secured through alimentation, but through work. The focus would be on the value of work (“via permanent, permanent positions with social security and a payment not below the minimum wage”). The former SPD chairman Andrea Nahles rejects a UBI, instead she campaigns for the promotion of 18-year-olds with an unconditional starting balance of 15,000 to 20,000 euros.
  • The FDP discusses the “ liberal citizens' money ”, which is not unconditional. However, it emerged from Joachim Mitschke's concept of negative income tax and citizens' money , which established the idea of ​​a UBI in Germany in the early 1990s and is intended to be a compromise with the opponents of unconditionality. The FDP considers a UBI while maintaining contribution-financed social benefits (pension, health, long-term care insurance) to be unaffordable and its abolition not fair.
  • The party Die Linke would like to introduce a basic security free of sanctions instead of a basic income. There are, however, attempts by the so-called emancipatory left for a UBI that are rejected by the socialist left . The party leader and member of the Bundestag Katja Kipping is committed to a UBI; she is a former spokesperson for the Basic Income Network . In addition, the project is being discussed in the party's federal and state working groups. In 2017, the Federal Working Group on Basic Income presented a revised concept for an unconditional, emancipatory concept based on the party's program, which is known as the “Left Basic Income”. For the inclusion of this concept in the party program, the federal working group initiated a membership decision. Since the beginning of the campaign, the number of state working groups has increased significantly.
  • In the case of Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen , at the federal party conference in November 2007, the proposal for a basic Greens pension prevailed with 60% of the delegate votes against the BGE. It provides for a reform of the previous system of means-tested transfers with a comparable increase in ALG II and contains several elements of the basic income, such as the step-by-step introduction of a basic income for children (unconditional child protection ), the eco bonus (a basic income financed from eco taxes), a temporary basic income (Bridging livelihood security) and, in the case of unemployment benefit II, the waiver of any financial sanctions that lead to income falling below the livelihood security level. In the party, the Green Network Basic Income deals with the basic income. The Green Youth advocates a basic income.
  • Several unions have spoken out against the UBI, for example B. ver.di boss Frank Bsirske and IG Metall functionary Jörg Hofmann. Political scientist and poverty researcher Christoph Butterwegge , through the German Trade Union Confederation, also declared the minimal state targeted by the BGE in 2017 as an unconditionally neoliberal goal that will not reduce relative poverty and is therefore not a suitable means of combating poverty and social inequality in Germany, but rather an instrument that would destroy the welfare state and warns of a possible loss of collective agreements, protection against dismissal and minimum wages.
  • Federal President Steinmeier spoke out in 2018 at a federal congress of the DGB together with Reiner Hoffmann against a BGE as a “parking bonus” for the shutdown of workers; the reference to the unconditional basic income is too defensive and amounts to a capitulation, work is more than income, means the organization of life and self-determination through work.
  • Attac , the youth organization of the Arbeiterwohlfahrt , the Catholic Workers' Movement , the Federation of German Catholic Youth and the German Federal Youth Association support an unconditional basic income.
  • The chairman of the German Bishops' Conference, Reinhard Cardinal Marx , spoke out against the BGE in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung in November 2017 . He holds an introduction for the “end of democracy”, because one cannot “build a society by providing a large part of the basic income and otherwise letting the entertainment industry loose”. You have to make sure that “the normal employment relationship , that someone lives from their work and also creates something there, does something useful for the community, in the community. This is a pillar for a free society and if the pillar is cut, democracy will also erode ”. The Bishop of Essen Franz-Josef Overbeck also expressed his disapproval of the BGE on the occasion of Labor Day 2019. The Association of Catholics in Business and Administration rejects the UBI.
  • The head of the Social Science Institute of the Evangelical Church in Germany Gerhard Wegner, Protestant pastor and associate professor , spoke out against the BGE in an article for the church newspaper Die Kirche in March 2018 . He wrote that the claim that the UBI could help solve welfare state problems was “more than naive: it is irresponsible! In fact, it would be a stove bonus for many people: some money to finally come to terms with their already difficult situation. "

Critical discussion in business and society

The effects on the labor market and prices cannot be fully foreseen for any model. Proponents claim that gainful employment would not be reduced because people would work voluntarily on their own initiative or for additional income and goods and services would have to continue to be produced and offered, even with current social systems it would lead to poverty . The view of critics that work is meaningful and enables participation is also shared by some supporters, even without existential fear there is a motivation to work, nobody is excluded from work by BGE, so it is not a “set-aside bonus”. With the battle term "parking bonus", the UBI is rejected by some union officials as a standstill bonus with no prospect of gainful employment; it is not a solution to cushion digitalization, technological change ( Work 4.0 ) and globalization ; People want to work and they want to be as qualified as possible.

Richard David Precht sees an unconditional basic income of 1500 euros as a means to absorb the higher unemployment expected in the course of the digital revolution and to prevent collective poverty, especially in old age. This will overcome a concept of performance based solely on gainful employment, which is already blind to the social performance of many people. This also eliminates the need to do monotonous and demoralizing work. In this further revolution in the world of business and work, it is important to create a new order and balance. "We will again have to implement more socialism in capitalism [...] - or we risk huge economic and social crashes."

Opponents fear that an unconditional basic income will lead citizens to inactivity more often, since the material incentive to take up a job will decrease. If work is hardly materially worthwhile, especially for people with hitherto low incomes, there would not be enough people to do low-paid and particularly unpleasant work. Critics point out that an unconditional basic income could be an incentive for increased immigration , it is criticized that a high proportion of the national income would be redistributed through an unconditional basic income .

The economist and former State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Heiner Flassbeck, believes that the UBI will “set a senseless redistribution machine in motion”. The real profiteers are high earners who don't need it. Christoph Butterwegge says: “What is fair about it if the billionaire receives the same amount as the garbage collector? [...] A 'lean state' is the ideal of neoliberals, who see social justice as just a mirage. Anyone who wants to achieve more social justice needs a strong welfare state that financially supports those in need but not the wealthy and the rich. In order to differentiate between the two groups, one needs a state bureaucracy that strives for needs-based justice. If a basic income were achieved, the neoliberals would have achieved their main goal: smash the welfare state and create a free path for the market. ”The economist Heinz-J. Bontrup describes the BGE as an "economically bizarre requirement".

The economically liberal think tank Stiftung Marktwirtschaft has described the unconditional basic income as an “unsustainable promise” and given the following reasons, among other things: Young people and children, especially from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, could blindly neglect their own education and qualifications through such a basic income. If the social security system were to be replaced, the principle of fair performance would be eliminated. Due to the property right protection of pension rights, such a system change requires long transition periods. An unconditional basic income tied to the main residence would also have an “immense attractiveness” for people in other EU countries and would lead to the expectation of significant immigration flows. Limiting the basic income in order to prevent “basic income-induced migration flows” could be implemented in relation to third countries , but it would easily conflict with European law and the right to free movement guaranteed therein .

According to Gerd Habermann from the association Die Familienunternehmer - ASU , the idea of ​​an unconditional basic income is based on an idea of ​​a state in which everyone could live at the expense of everyone else. The psychological effects are a sharp decrease in work motivation, especially among the “poorer earners”, as well as the spread of an innovation-hostile “pensioner mentality” (in economics one speaks of a political pension for income from transfer payments and a pension economy when the same is used). So-called full-employment countries from Switzerland to New Zealand showed that work did not end .

In the left-wing political spectrum, where there are many supporters, a critical debate about the basic income has ignited. The social scientist Rainer Roth complains that the "unconditional basic income for everyone reflects the interests of a minority". While rather skeptical voices see the discussion about a basic income as the chance that it could lead beyond itself, others see the basic income as “not a step in the right direction, but a project about how to better manage poverty, that is, how to maintain it. "

The Institute for Economic and Social Sciences sees the danger that an unconditional basic income could lead to the expansion of precarious working conditions in some areas . Wages, protection against dismissal and collective bargaining structures could come under pressure. This could ultimately lead to increasing uncertainty among employees.


  • On October 21, 2002, the Austrian network Basic Income and Social Cohesion - BIEN - Austria was founded. It gathers people who support the unconditional basic income and organizes a symposium and a network meeting once a year. The Round Table - Basic Income was founded as an open forum on September 8, 2006. It serves to network different associations, initiatives and people who work for an unconditional basic income and meets once a month in the Amerlinghaus in Vienna .
  • The basic social security model of the Greens is supposed to protect against poverty and is demand-oriented and linked to “willingness to work”, ie not unconditionally. The level of security must therefore at least be based on the value of 60% of median income, which poverty research regards as the “at risk of poverty threshold” . This amount (approx. 834 euros in 2005) has to be combined at least with basic security and housing benefit.
  • The civil rights movement Generation Basic Income promotes the discussion about the unconditional basic income and started a crowdfunding project in July 2018 . Upon successful completion, a basic income congress would be organized with the proceeds, and studies on the financial feasibility of the UBI would also be planned. In addition, the submission of a referendum on the introduction of an unconditional basic income in Austria is a goal of the initiative.
  • In July 2016, the association was BGE - B edingungsloses- G round- E established inkommen, which as of the same party under § 1 paragraph 4 PPA was registered with the Statute of 11 January 2018 at the BMI.. With the basic income model BGE 100% , which includes ten criteria, one wants to run in the upcoming elections.
  • In the 2019 National Council election , the parties NOW , KPÖ and WANDEL voted for the introduction of an unconditional basic income instead of the minimum income.
  • In November 2019, the referendum on an unconditional basic income initiated by Peter Hofer, a private citizen from Graz, without an association or party in the background, received 69,940 signatures, which corresponds to 1.1 percent of the 6,381,700 people entitled to sign. The hurdle of 100,000 necessary signatures for treatment in Parliament was not skipped.
  • On February 6, 2020, a new referendum on the unconditional basic income started with the collection of declarations of support.


Daniel Häni in Berlin 2013
Enno Schmidt 2016

Movement, group

The BIEN-Switzerland association has been active since the BIEN European Congress in Geneva in 2002.

The Basic Income Initiative was founded in January 2006 by Daniel Häni and Enno Schmidt and is based in Basel. Their aim was to publicize the idea of ​​an unconditional basic income and to determine the chances of success of a popular initiative in Switzerland.

Parties, union

The Alternative Left wrote the BGE in their party's founding in March 2010 firmly in their priorities for action. In October 2010, the SP Switzerland included the UBI in its party program. The Syna union met on 29./30. October 2010 at its congress in St. Gallen as the first trade union in Switzerland to vote for a BGE.

Parliamentary initiative

A parliamentary initiative by Josef Zisyadis ( AL / PdA , Waadt ) and Katharina Prelicz-Huber ( GP , Zurich ) to introduce a UBI in Switzerland was rejected on June 17, 2011.

Popular initiatives 2010/11 and 2012/16

A first attempt in 2010/2011 for a popular initiative for an unconditional basic income (popular initiative “For an unconditional basic income financed by energy steering taxes”) by a group of initiators from green circles failed due to an insufficient number of signatures.

In April 2012, the above-mentioned Basic Income Initiative began collecting signatures for a second popular initiative on this topic (“For an unconditional basic income”), with the participation of BIEN-Switzerland, and in October 2013 it submitted 126,000 signatures in Bern. With regard to the upcoming referendum, the number of critical comments increased. Funding in particular raised questions.

This second popular initiative also failed - it was rejected in the referendum on June 5, 2016. With a participation of 47%, 23.1% voted for and 76.9% against the initiative. The percentage of no votes in the individual cantons fluctuated between 64% ( Canton Basel-Stadt ) and 87.4% ( Canton Appenzell Innerrhoden ).


In 1985, the Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid (Scientific Council for Government Policy ), a think tank of the Dutch government, recommended the introduction of a basic income. In 1987 three trade unions founded the Stichting Werkplaats Basisinkomen (Basic Income Workshop Foundation). In 1991 this was incorporated into the Vereniging Vriendinnen en Vrienden van het Basisinkomen (Association of Friends of the Basic Income), which since April 2013 has been shortened to Vereniging Basisinkomen (Association of Basic Income).

United States

The idea of ​​a basic income was also promoted in the USA by market-liberal economists such as Milton Friedman . It was proposed by Martin Luther King and Richard Nixon in the late 1960s ; Nixon failed in 1970 because of the rejection in the Senate after the House of Representatives had already approved the bill.

In Hawaii , the Hawaiian politician Chris Lee submitted Resolution 89 to the parliament of Hawaii in March 2017, which provides for the examination of the introduction of a partial or full universal basic income. In this context, a working group of government representatives is to be formed together with the University of Hawaii and the AFL-CIO industrial union . a. analyzed the extent of job losses in terms of increasing automation.

During his speech on the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela in July 2018, former American President Barack Obama et al. a. the idea of ​​the basic income (UBI) to the language. In 2016 he mentioned the UBI in a discussion by WIRED magazine about the future of the world.

Implementation models and test project


Demonstration for the unconditional basic income, Berlin, November 6, 2010

Legal position

According to the current legal situation, there is no statutory right to a basic income in the Federal Republic of Germany (see status theory : Status positivus ). People who are unable to develop personally or socially because of physical or mental ailments, for example, still have a legally secured right to a state basic subsistence security , which must guarantee a socio-cultural subsistence level as a minimum guarantee.


Although the similar-sounding name suggests this, the pilot project Solidarisches Grundeinkommen (SGE) launched in Berlin in July 2019 by the Governing Mayor Michael Müller is not an unconditional basic income. Rather, it is a limited number of newly created jobs in the publicly funded employment sector , in which unemployed people who meet certain criteria are paid according to collective bargaining or minimum wages . The economist Bert Rürup called the solidarity basic income an “unsolidary sham”.

Initiatives and projects

In mid-2010, the Breuninger Foundation wanted to start a field test in Germany : 100 citizens in the economically powerful Stuttgart and 100 citizens in an economically weak region in Brandenburg were to receive a monthly basic income of 800 euros plus the necessary social security contributions for two years . The financing did not succeed.

An online petition submitted by Susanne Wiest to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag to introduce an unconditional basic income reached over 50,000 signatories in 2009. A public hearing in the Bundestag took place on November 8, 2010. On June 27, 2013, the petition closed without debate.

In June 2014, the Berlin startup founder Michael Bohmeyer started the project Mein Grundeinkommen , in which he collects money through crowdfunding to enable several people to earn an unconditional basic income of € 1,000 per month for a year. The basic income will be raffled among all registered applicants. The aim of the project is, among other things, to test the reaction of the chosen ones to the basic income.

In June 2017, the new state government in Schleswig-Holstein agreed on a future laboratory as a model project for the discussion and evaluation of "new security models, for example citizen benefits, a basic income or the further development of social security systems". The Green politician Robert Habeck prefers a UBI as a model experiment, the Schleswig-Holstein Minister of Social Affairs Heiner Garg (FDP) prefers a liberal citizens' money.

Claims during the corona pandemic

During the corona pandemic , voices were raised in favor of an unconditional basic income. In a petition to the German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and the Bundestag, a test phase of six months and a short-term payment to maintain purchasing power in the crisis are called for, especially for freelancers without reserves and active people in small companies. To compensate for the loss of income due to the measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, the BGE activist Susanne Wiest submitted an online petition to the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag on March 14, 2020 to introduce an unconditional basic income at short notice. The petition had 176,134 signatories by April 27. This is well above the quorum of 50,000 above which a public hearing before the Petitions Committee is the rule.


In 2018, the director and filmmaker Rebecca Panian launched an initiative for a pilot project to test the UBI in a Swiss village for a year in 2019. As a project manager, she wanted to accompany the test on film. The costs should be financed through crowdfunding or a foundation . Because of the population structure, Rheinau ZH , a municipality with 1300 inhabitants, was selected. The local council approved a UBI for all people living in Rheinau on June 5, 2018 who wanted to participate voluntarily in the project. Adults over the age of 25 should receive 2,500 Swiss francs per month (around 2,300 euros). Around 625 francs were earmarked for younger people. The UBI should be offset against additional income. 770 people registered for the test. The project did not materialize because, despite the great media attention, at the end of the almost two-month donation period, instead of the 6.1 million required, only 150,000 francs had been received.

United States

In 1967, a guaranteed minimum income commission was set up in the United States under President Johnson when the eminent neoliberal economist Milton Friedman proposed a negative income tax linked to earned income. Two years later, the report was published by the commission, which consisted of entrepreneurs, trade unionists and public figures, and which unanimously advocated a guaranteed minimum income. The report found little response. Citizens and politicians could not get used to the idea of ​​guaranteeing everyone a certain income. Despite the Commission's recommendation, many politicians believed that the very idea of ​​a guaranteed income would undermine the will to work of an entire generation of Americans.

Nonetheless, the US government launched pilot projects to test the practical consequences of a guaranteed minimum income. To their surprise, it turned out that the recipients' motivation to look for work did not weaken noticeably. Further approaches in the USA are currently the following cases:

  • Alaska: The example of Alaska, which is often discussed in this context , is not a “real” basic income, despite the unconditional payment from the Alaska Permanent Fund , which every resident there receives, as the amount - from 1982 to 2008 an average of around USD 1100  per person and year - is nowhere near enough to secure a living.
  • Stockton, California: Since February 2019, a smaller social experiment called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) has been carried out in Stockton on the effect of the so-called "Guaranteed Income". In addition, 125 randomly selected Stockton citizens will be given $ 500 per month to freely use over an 18-month period. An independent research team under the direction of two professors is accompanying the project and will produce a report at the end.


In Brazil , the first steps towards an unconditional basic income were taken under President Lula . The poorest were the first to receive a small amount, until 2010 the payments were to be extended to the entire population, but this was not implemented.

In 2004, Brazil became the first country to incorporate the right to an unconditional basic income into its constitution. Law 10.835 / 2004 establishes the right of all Brazilians to an unconditional basic income. A state benefit is guaranteed for all citizens who have lived in the country for at least five years. This should cover the basic needs of nutrition, education and health - regardless of whether the recipient works or has assets. A clause in the law (the “renda básica” should be introduced “gradually”) puts the implementation on the back burner. So far, only the Bolsa Família has been introduced, a state benefit for the poorest households in the country. This is tied to conditions and requires means tests. Although the Bolsa Familia now reaches around a quarter of all Brazilians, many others in need lack information and support from local administrations. From 2008 to 2014, the Brazilian non-governmental organization ReCivitas in the small Brazilian village Quatinga Velho near São Paulo paid an unconditional basic income without exception and unconditional monthly to all recipients in order to test its effectiveness in practice. The financing of the pilot project has so far been mainly based on donations. The basic income paid by ReCivitas is 30 real (around 11 euros) per month - around 130 euros per person for a year. The balance sheet after four years: Up to 127 people simultaneously claimed the basic income. They invested the largest amount of money in improving their own homes, followed by medicine for their children. In third place were various income-generating measures.


In June 2015, the coalition agreement of the Finnish ruling parties stipulated that it would be the first European country to test a (partially conditional) basic income. Two thirds of Finns supported this in a survey by the Finnish social security organization Kela in the same year.

A field study was designed under the direction of Kela . First, different models should be examined: an actually unconditional basic income, an unconditional basic security of at least 550 euros while maintaining additional benefits such as housing benefit and a negative income tax . The expenses were estimated at 20 million euros for two years.

From January 2017, 2000 randomly selected unemployed people were paid a monthly basic income of 560 euros instead of unemployment benefits , limited to two years. The Finnish government rejected an extension in April 2018.In May 2020, the Finnish Social Insurance Agency drew the balance that the unemployment rate had fallen among the participants, albeit not significantly more than in the control group. Red tape could be saved and the participants reported significantly less stress and health problems. However, Finland had introduced new measures during the study period to activate unemployed benefit recipients who could only affect the control group and therefore formed a confounder . The test persons' statements on mental and physical well-being were also subjective and incomplete; only a third gave any information. Kela admitted that one could only say “that the observed effects can be traced back to both the basic income and the activation model”, but one does not know how and to what extent.

In spring 2020, a balance was drawn: Because of the superimposed effects of this pilot project and other activation measures, it is difficult to assess the employment effect. Instead of a basic income, simplifications of social security through lump sums for individual groups of recipients and special financial benefits for people who do something for the community of their own accord are being considered.


In Madhya Pradesh ( Central India ), regular money transfers have been made available in 22 villages so far, which are particularly poor. Without any conditions, a monthly amount of 200 rupees is paid out to every citizen over the age of 18 in the selected villages; women receive 100 rupees for children and young people under the age of 18. When converted using purchasing power parities (World Bank Atlas method), 200 rupees corresponds to around 10 euros. So it is a partial basic income (does not secure existence and participation). People are free to use it.


As in Alaska, the Iranian government has opted for citizens to share in the profits from oil production. An amount equivalent to the equivalent of 80 US dollars is paid per person every two months, i.e. 480 $ per person per year. More than 80% of Iranians have applied.


In Italy, at the instigation of the five-star movement, on March 6, 2019 , the government introduced citizens' benefits amounting to € 780 (singles) and € 1,280 (couples). Although it is not unconditional and cannot be requested by everyone, some have classified it as UBI-like. The project was criticized by the trade unions, churches and industry as being overpriced and a brake on the economy, as the planned 15 billion euros in costs are to be financed entirely on credit and this amount would be missing on the investment side. The government's calculation, however, is that the domestic economy will be strengthened by the increased consumption of the poorest sections of the population and that the costs will be refinanced in this way .


Mincome was a social experiment from 1974 to 1978, which was supposed to examine the effects of a guaranteed annual income subsidy depending on work (negative income tax). A grant was granted to every person and family in Dauphin who fell below the poverty line. There were 1,300 families in the sample for scientific monitoring and data collection.

In 2016 it became known that a new pilot project was planned in the province of Ontario . In the cities and the vicinity of Hamilton , Thunder Bay and Lindsay , the effects of a UBI in the areas of health and education as well as on the job market opportunities for low-wage earners were to be examined for three years from 2017 . The project was terminated prematurely after a year when there was a change of government after the Ontario elections in mid-2018.


Between 1964 and 1973, the period of the “historical wage” prevailed in Cuba - a unit wage subject to compulsory labor in a planned economic distribution of labor, which one author described as “almost unconditional basic income”. There was no possibility of additional income beyond the standard wage.

The consequence of these conditions was a rapid decline in labor productivity . State-set prices ensured that the production of the goods was often significantly more expensive than the sales proceeds. More and more people were needed in the sugar harvest to get the same harvest result. There was a sharp drop in total production in industry and agriculture, which led to a sharp supply crisis, some of which continues to this day.

Since this type of standard wage was linked to the formal condition of taking up a job, there was no massive absence from work. However, retrospective studies found that declining labor productivity was one of the main problems for the supply crisis. The hope "that the Cubans freed from exploitation, instead of obeying the necessity of doing gainful work, would freely choose their best for the construction of a socialist Cuba, if only one made the connections clear to them and would set a good example" For example, Che Guevara was shown in personal action while cutting sugar cane, but it was not fulfilled.


The government of Mongolia has taken the first steps to introduce an unconditional basic income. As in Alaska, the money is said to come from income from the sale of mineral resources (here: gold, copper). The fund from which the payout is to be made has already been set up and the government has already promised to pay out.


In Namibia , the residents of Otjivero-Omitara received an unconditional basic income called the “ Basic Income Grant ” (BIG). The aim was to record and document the impact of the BIG on poverty and to convince the Namibian government to introduce the basic income nationwide.

From January 2008 to December 2009 the BIG coalition organizing the BIG in Otjivero paid out a Basic Income Grant (BIG) of 100 N $ per month to the approx. 1000 registered residents of the village  . The first half-year report is available as a summary in a German translation, as well as the detailed 2008 annual report in English. Due to its positive effects (reduction in malnutrition, unemployment, the number of dropouts and a decrease in crime), the project was initially continued on a private basis with a monthly payment of N $ 80. According to the BIG coalition, this reduced payment could only be secured until March 2012. The Namibian government did not want to implement the basic income nationwide, which is why the initiators express their disappointment. Since March 2012, the payment of the reduced basic income has been dependent on the incoming donation, which no longer allows a reliable monthly payment. The payments were finally stopped in 2013.

The very positive conclusions, which were drawn six months after the start of the project, have been criticized in terms of method and content on various occasions.


At the end of 2016, the US charity GiveDirectly started a pilot project in Kenya with the unconditional basic income, which is also scientifically investigating the effects. The project is being accompanied by economists from Princeton University and MIT . The project duration is set for 10 to 12 years. The total planned spending is $ 30 million in donations, of which approximately $ 23.7 million has been raised as of February 2017.

By 2017, 6,000 participants from a few localities took part as recipients. In 2017, the number of recipients is to be increased to 26,000 people in 200 villages. Each of the selected people receives a basic income of around € 20 per month or 0.75 cents per day over a period of 10 years. The monthly amount corresponds to about half the Kenyan monthly average wage .

To study the impact of different types of payouts, recipients are divided into groups, each receiving their basic income in different ways. In order to obtain information about the form of payment with the greatest benefit, data on the socio-economic background , lifestyle , willingness to take risks or attitude to life are recorded. The first results are expected two years after the start of the project.

In 40 villages, participants will receive € 20 per month for ten years. In other 80 villages the participants receive the basic income for only two years, and in another 80 villages the total amount is given as a one-off payment. 100 villages without a basic income serve as a control group. The M-Pesa mobile payment system developed in Kenya is used to make transfers even to the most remote areas .

Prominent supporters of the project include Pierre Omidyar , founder of the online auction house EBay , Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and Jacqueline Fuller , head of the Google Giving organization .


There are a number of research studies into the effects of the introduction of an unconditional basic income. This includes a number of field studies .

Film documentaries




See also

Web links

Commons : Basic Income  - Collection of Images

References and comments

  1. Among others see below: André Gorz , Richard David Precht . Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee take a “fresh look at the unconditional basic income” in the “Long-term Recommendations” chapter of their book “The Second Machine Age”, which refers, among other things, to the declining share of work in the gross domestic product of the USA since the early 1980s and perspectives of the digital revolution are discussed. (Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee: The Second Machine Age. How the next digital revolution will change our lives. 5th edition, Kulmbach 2015, p. 176)
  2. a b c Florian Habermacher, Gebhard Kirchgässner : The Unconditional Basic Income: An (unfortunately) unaffordable idea ( Memento from May 8, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) , Discussion Paper No. 2016-07, University of St. Gallen , April 2016
  3. List of common English terms: USBIG: What is BIG? ( Memento from July 24, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Overview of the global discussion status: Basic Income News .
  5. a b Milton Friedman : Capitalism and Freedom . Piper, Munich, 2006, pp. 227-231. Excerpts from: Basic Income - Cash, nothing else . In: Die Zeit , No. 16/2007
  6. a b c Torsten Hampel: Michael Bohmeyer's experiment begins. In: Der Tagesspiegel . September 24, 2014.
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  8. WDR : Four models in comparison ( Memento from June 12, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). Retrieved December 3, 2011.
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  10. Basic Income Earth Network : About Basic Income ( Memento June 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  11. The arguments compiled here come from the literature cited as well as the elaboration of the HWWI : Unconditional Basic Income and Solidarisches Bürgergeld - more than socially utopian concepts ( Memento from January 17, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.1 MB)
  12. See the discussion between Mathias Greffrath and Wolfgang Engler : A revolution in thinking and acting . In: taz , December 1, 2006
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  14. Compare the guest article by Timo Reuter at Zeit Online: Money for real freedom
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  25. From the last book by Martin Luther King, published in 1967 in New York by Harper & Row, title Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (Where do we go : chaos or community?), From the chapter Where We Are Going
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