Countries That Have Tried Universal Basic Income 2022

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Universal basic income (UBI), also known as basic income, is a social service model that provides all citizens of a country a small monthly or annual stipend, which each person receives regardless of their employment status, income, or any other qualifying factors. UBI aims to reduce poverty and increase the quality of life among citizens. As of early 2022, no countries had implemented a truly universal basic income model, though a few had launched UBI-like programs specifically designed to aid the neediest individuals. Universal basic income models differ in their sources of funding, amounts distributed, and other dimensions.

In the past four decades, many countries including Finland, Canada, the United States, and Brazil (see map above and table at page bottom for full list) have discussed and debated UBI models. Many governments and private organizations have gone on to implement pilot programs to determine the practical cost of universal basic income, as well as its effectiveness in fighting poverty and its effects. The Basic Income Earth Network (BEIN) is one of many groups devoted to the promotion and implementation of universal basic income in countries around the world. The BIEN defines UBI using the following criteria:

Five Defining Characteristics of Universal Basic Income (UBI):

  1. Periodic: distributed in regular payments
  2. Cash payment: distributed as funds, not coupons or vouchers
  3. Individual: paid to every adult citizen, not just every household
  4. Universal: it is paid to all citizens, regardless of their situation
  5. Unconditional: there are no requirements regarding employment status or any other criteria

The pros and cons of universal basic income

As with other policies and models, universal basic income has its advantages and disadvantages. Supporters point out that many UBI pilot programs have resulted in increased school attendance and employment, greater community health, and improved financial stability with no corresponding increase in negative traits, such as unemployment claims or alcohol abuse. Supporters also argue that UBI enables college students to receive a degree in what interests them and not just a degree that will make them money. Because payments are automatic and do not require eligibility evaluations, the government would spend less time administering the welfare than it does now.

However, opponents of UBI argue that the system could not be funded on a nationwide scale without raising taxes for everyone. Additionally, because there are no requirements to receive UBI (proof of employment or willingness to find employment), people may be disincentivized to work. Free income could also trigger inflation, canceling out UBI's stated goal of decreasing poverty and increasing the overall standard of living.

Notable experiments in Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income in the United States

The United States has hosted nearly a dozen pilot programs in universal basic income. The longest-running of these is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has awarded each of its citizens a portion of the state's oil and gas revenues (roughly $1,000-2,000 per year) since 1982.

2020 Presidential Candidates Andrew Yang campaigned with a universal basic income plan called the Freedom Dividend. The Freedom Dividend responds to the increasing automation that will inevitably take away one in three jobs from American workers over the next decade. Yang’s plan would distribute a $1,000 "partial dividend" to each American adult every month ($12,000 per year)—enough to help, but not so much that it would encourage recipients to stop working. Several states have tried small-scale basic income programs in the past, including Alaska, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and California.

Universal Basic Income in Norway

The country whose system most closely resembles universal basic income is Norway. Norway is a welfare state, ensuring that all Norwegian citizens residing in the country have access to education, universal health care, and income in the form of social security or benefits. However, recipients of the monetary benefit must still meet specific conditions. For instance, they must seek work, abide by the law, participate in elections, and pay taxes.

Universal Basic Income in Finland

In 2016, Finland launched a basic income experiment with 2,000 randomly selected unemployed citizens, who were each given 560 euros ($640) monthly. Although the amount was only 50 euros more than what participants were previously receiving from unemployment benefits, they reported being happier and in better health. They also greatly appreciated being relieved of the ongoing paperwork involved with maintaining proof of unemployment eligibility.

Universal Basic Income in Brazil

It could be argued that Brazil has been more openly supportive of universal basic income than any other country. The UBI-like Bolsa Família social program, established in 2004, delivers a stipend worth roughly 20% of minimum wage to the neediest 25% (or so) of Brazil's people, helping them buy food, school supplies, clothing, and shoes. The town of Santo Antônio do Pinhal has gone a step further and established one of the world's first true UBI systems, giving all residents who have lived there a minimum of five years a portion of the city's tax revenue. Finally, a privately funded UBI pilot program has been active in the region of Quatinga Velho since 2008, and according to data, has led to improvements in living conditions, health, housing quality, and nutrition, particularly among children.

Countries That Have Tried Universal Basic Income 2022

Country Start Date End Date Type Details
ChinanonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
India2011-062012-11PilotTrials lasting 12 and 18 months tested effect of a UBI program amounting to 20-30% of a normal low income on a total of 6,000 people. Findings showed decrease in illness, improved school attendance and financial stability, and higher employment, with no corresponding increase in alcohol consumption.
United StatesmultiplemultiplePilotSeveral pilot programs have been conducted or are in process. One notable pilot program is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which has given residents $1,000-2,000 per year since 1982, funded by the state's oil and gas revenues.
Brazil2004ongoingWelfare and pilotBolsa Família is a welfare program passed in 2004 and implemented in stages, which gives roughly 26% of the population a monthly payment equivalent to just under 1/5 of minimum wage. Surveys indicate the money is spent on (in order of importance) food, school supplies, clothing, and shoes. A second, privately funded pilot project began in Quatinga Velho in 2008. It gives a very small stipend (roughly 5% of minimum salary), and has been cited as improving nutrition, living conditions, housing, and health, especially in children. Finally, the town Santo Antônio do Pinhal uses a legitimate UBI program that splits 6% of city tax revenue among all residents who have lived there for at least 5 years.
JapannonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
Iran20102016FullUnder "subsidy reform plan," government issued small monthly grant to roughly 90% of the population. Plan was never implemented as originally intended and was eventually scrapped. As of 2021, a number of economists had begun to call for the plan's reinstatement.
GermanynonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
United Kingdom20222025PilotPilot program in Wales (U.K.) will give young people over the age of 18 £1,600 ($2,175 USD) per month for up to two years, then compare their financial, physical, and emotional health to those who do not receive the stipend.
FrancenonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
South Africa2020-052020-10COVID-19 reliefIssued small grants to citizens of working age who had no other governmental support.
Kenya2018ongoingPilotTest program gives monthly grants of approx. 1/4-1/2 average income. Scheduled to run until 2030.
South Korea2016ongoingPartialIssues quarterly "allowance" to citizens of Gyeonggi province aged 24 or older; can only be used in local businesses.
SpainnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
UkrainenonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
Canada2017-102019-03PilotAn early pilot program that ran from 1974-1978 showed increased school attendance, decreased hospitalizations, and no change in unemployment rates. Amore recent 2017 test program provided roughly 4,000 people with monthly stipend equivalent to roughly $17,000 CAD (about $13,000 USD) for singles and $24,000 CAN for couples. Program was planned to run three years, but was ended early following the post-election transfer of governmental power from one political party to another. No results have been released.
AustralianonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
NetherlandsnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
BelgiumnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
Czech RepublicnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
GreecenonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
PortugalnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
HungarynonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
SwitzerlandnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
BulgarianonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
Finland20162018PilotTrial program gave 2,000 unemployed adults a monthly grant. Parliament declined to fund it past 2018.
NorwaynonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
IrelandnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
New ZealandnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
LithuanianonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
Namibia2008-012009-12PilotPilot program in two villages paid roughly 8% of average income. Significantly reduced child malnutrition, increased school attendance, boosted community income, decreased theft.
LatvianonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
EstonianonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.
IcelandnonenoneDiscussedConsidered, but not yet implemented as of 2022.

Countries That Have Tried Universal Basic Income 2022