A Basic Income, also called Universal Basic Income (UBI), Citizen's Income (CI), Citizen's Basic Income(CBI) (in the United Kingdom), Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) (in the United States and Canada), orUniversal Demogrant, is a periodic cash payment delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.


The incomes would be:

  • Unconditional: A Basic Income would vary with age, but there would be no other conditions: so everyone of the same age would receive the same Basic Income, whatever their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.
  • Automatic: Someone’s Basic Income would be paid weekly or monthly, automatically, into a bank account or similar.
  • Nonwithdrawable: Basic Incomes would not be means-tested. Whether someone's earnings increase, decrease, or stay the same, their Basic Income will not change.
  • Individual: Basic Incomes would be paid on an individual basis, and not on the basis of a couple or household.
  • As a right: Everybody legally resident would receive a Basic Income, subject to a minimum period of legal residency, and continuing residency for most of the year.


Basic income can be implemented nationally, regionally or locally. An unconditional income that is sufficient to meet a person's basic needs (at or above the poverty line), is sometimes called a Full Basic Income, while if it is less than that amount, it is sometimes called Partial. A welfare system with some characteristics similar to those of a Basic Income is a negative income tax, in which the government stipend is gradually reduced with higher labour income.


Some welfare systems are sometimes regarded as steps on the way to a Basic Income, but because they have conditionalities attached they are not Basic Incomes. If they raise household incomes to specified minima they are called guaranteed minimum income systems. For example, Bolsa Família in Brazil is restricted to poor families and the children are obligated to attend school.


There are several political discussions that are related to the basic income debate. Some examples include the debates regarding robotisation, AI (artificial intelligence), and the future of work. One key issue in these debates is whether robotisation and AI will significantly reduce the number of available jobs. Basic income often comes up as a proposal in these types of discussions.




The debates about basic income and automation are closely linked. For example, Mark Zuckerberg argues that the increase in automation creates a greater need for basic income. Concerns about automation have prompted many in the high-technology industry to argue for basic income as an implication of their business models.


Many technologists believe that automation (among other things) is creating technological unemployment. Journalist Nathan Schneider first highlighted the turn of the "tech elite" to these ideas with an article in Vice magazine, which cited Marc AndreessenSam AltmanPeter Diamandis, and others. Some studies about automation and jobs validate these concerns. The US White House, in a report to the US Congress, estimated that a worker earning less than $20 an hour in 2010 will eventually lose their job to a machine with 83% probability. Even workers earning as much as $40 an hour faced a probability of 31%. With a rising unemployment rate, poor communities will become more impoverished worldwide. Proponents of universal basic income argue that it could solve many world problems like high work stress and could create more opportunities and efficient and effective work. This claim is supported by some studies. In a study in Dauphin, Manitoba, only 13% of labor decreased from a much higher expected number. In a study in several Indian villages, basic income in the region raised the education rate of young people by 25%.


Andrew Yang talks about how automation is negatively affecting real people when it takes over their jobs in his book The War On Normal People, he says that even though automation might make the economy and market more efficient it is not being used positively to help people. It is not creating enough new jobs than the number of old jobs it is replacing. An example of this is - In 2004, BlockBuster was making $6 billion with 84,000 employees. Netflix has so far made $9 billion dollars with only 4,500 employees. Other places where automation is rapidly replacing people is self driving cars, nearly 3 million jobs in the US will be replaced in the next 10 years it is not a question of if they will be replaced but how quickly they will be displaced. This is one problem most critics of automation don't realise and argue that automation will create new jobs, but automation is so different this time compared to the Industrial Revolution because peoples livelihood is being displaced in an unprecedented scale and when these people lose the option to pursue these kinds of jobs they will have to be retrained and even then they might not be hired and leave the workforce entirely.


Besides technological unemployment, some tech-industry experts worry that automation will destabilize the labor market or increase economic inequality. One example is Chris Hughes, co-founder of both Facebook and Economic Security Project. Automation has been happening for hundreds of years; it has not permanently reduced the employment rate but has constantly caused employment instability. It displaces workers who spend their lives learning skills that become outmoded and forces them into unskilled labor. Paul Vallée, a Canadian tech-entrepreneur and CEO of Pythian, argues that automation is at least as likely to increase poverty and reduce social mobility than it is to create ever-increasing unemployment rate. At the 2016 North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress in Winnipeg, Vallée examined slavery as a historical example of a period in which capital (African slaves) could do the same things that human labor (poor whites) could do. He found that slavery did not cause massive unemployment among poor whites, but instead increased economic inequality and lowered social mobility.




Philippe Van Parijs has argued that basic income at the highest sustainable level is needed to support real freedom, or the freedom to do whatever one "might want to do". By this, Van Parijs means that all people should be free to use the resources of the Earth and the "external assets" people make out of them to do whatever they want. Money is like an access ticket to use those resources, and so to make people equally free to do what they want with world assets, the government should give each individual as many such access tickets as possible - that is, the highest sustainable basic income.


Karl Widerquist and others have proposed a theory of freedom in which basic income is needed to protect the power to refuse work, which can be summarized as follows:

If the resources necessary to an individual's survival are controlled by another group, that individual has no reasonable choice other than to do whatever the resource-controlling group demands. Before the establishment of governments and landlords, individuals had direct access to the resources they needed to survive. But today, resources necessary for the production of food, shelter, and clothing have been privatized in such a way that some have gotten a share and others have not.


Therefore, this argument goes, the owners of those resources owe compensation back to non-owners, sufficient at least for them to purchase the resources or goods necessary to sustain their basic needs. This redistribution must be unconditional because people can consider themselves free only if they are not forced to spend all their time doing the bidding of others simply to provide basic necessities to themselves and their families. Under this argument, personal, political, and religious freedom are worth little without the power to say no. In this view, basic income provides an economic freedom, which - combined with political freedom, freedom of belief, and personal freedom - establish each individual's status as a free person.