Social Innovation for the Sustainability

Seminar on the Desirability and Applicability of Basic Income in Spain

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On 8 June 2018, itdUPM organised a seminar at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Industriales of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid on the concept of basic income, focusing on its feasibility, applicability and desirability in Spain. The seminar provided a platform for a multidisciplinary debate on the benefits and disadvantages of basic income.

The dialogue was divided into two panel discussions in which professionals from very different disciplines shared their experiences and perspectives on this issue.

The first round of discussions considered the desirability of basic income and the second its applicability.

Víctor Gómez Frías, Borja Barragué, Leticia Mengual, Luis Arroyo, Celia Fernández, and María G. Navarro participated in the first discussion.

The speakers began their conversation by familiarising the audience with the concept of basic income. Víctor Gómez Frías defined universal basic income as "a public benefit consisting of a periodic monetary transfer that the state provides unconditionally to a broad category of individuals throughout their lives".

The discussion then went on to highlight positive aspects of basic income. For example, it was pointed out that basic income contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As is well known, these global goals are part of the universal sustainable development agenda set by the United Nations National Assembly in September 2015. Although not all seventeen SDGs were discussed during the seminar, it is clear that basic income has the potential to be an important means to contribute to achieving some of them. This is the case for SDG 1 (end poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).

Basic income acts as an important tool to combat economic and social injustices. Economically, it means helping vulnerable people who work in very precarious conditions. For example, it gives people on low incomes the opportunity to be able to afford higher quality food, pay their rents, enjoy more leisure time and consequently improve their quality of life. Receiving a basic income would give citizens freedom and autonomy over their own lives in both a practical and creative sense.

The seminar also highlighted the significant role of the government in basic income. Among its many responsibilities, the government must protect the basic rights of citizens. This idea has political implications as it depends on the ideology of different personal political choices. The ensuing discussion debated the possible consideration of alternatives to basic income as a means of empowering the most vulnerable population. At the same time, the discussion focused on the applicability of the concept of universal basic income.

download.gifThe next round of panelists included Juan Jimeno, José María Casado, Carmen Carrero, Susana Barcelona, Marta Navas-Parejo and Miguel Sebastián. This panel developed the importance of the principle of unconditionality of basic income. In the opinion of the speakers, unconditionality differentiates this instrument from other means of social protection.

What is meant by unconditionality in this context and why is this characteristic so important? It means that the basic income should reach the entire population regardless of their socio-economic status and origin and not discriminate on the basis of age, employment or any other circumstance.

download.gifInteresting discussions were held on the extreme stigmatisation of vulnerable populations and the concern that providing a basic income to everyone might discourage beneficiaries from seeking employment. The panel members considered, however, that there is no evidence to this effect. On the contrary, basic income can act as an aid to people in their job search process. It was also stressed that it is compatible with other successful social protection systems such as health insurance or public education.