Wed 9 Dec 2020 11:55AM

Basic Income Experiment

LM Lander Meeusen Public Seen by 29

After writing an opinion piece on knack.be, the president of sp-a, Conner Rousseau, asked me what I had in mind. To answer him, I'd like to ask your input.

What would a good experiment in Flanders/Belgium look like?

Obviously this should be a scientific study, done by professional academics, but we as citizens can brainstorm as well about it. Also, I know there have already been a lot of these studies abroad, so I know we don't have to reinvent anything, but maybe tweak it a bit for the Belgian context.

A few idea's to kick off:

  • long enough to measure long term effects

  • diverse groups (control group, small income, larger income, unemployment vs employed people)

  • measure more than labour activation: family , studies and trainings, consumption, happiness, spare time activities, cultural activities, ...

  • ...

(Here is the piece on knack.be, in Dutch: https://www.knack.be/nieuws/belgie/laten-we-deze-crisis-als-beslissend-keerpunt-gebruiken-om-werk-te-maken-van-een-basisinkomen/article-opinion-1667963.html)


Christophe Cop Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:22PM

One can try for a certain area ( a medium sized town or city) completely remove the current way of giving money (RVA, OCMW, not including healthcare) and give everyone a basic income (if you want to save costs, you can allow for a negative income tax instead, tough that would make it computationally heavy, which would probably increase the costs).
Alternatively, you can draw a random sample from the population (sample size depends on how fine-grained sub-group differences you need to find: a sub-group size of 200 should suffice)

Length: 5 years
Control group: another, similar town or number of towns, for which the population distribution of the variables is comparable or known

We can decide on additional metrics (preferably using a personal data pod for this experiment), such as happiness ratings, total monthly income, work status, mental and physical illness or health indicators, how time is spent, how the difference in money is spent or budgeted,... ) - there is no need to make categories of continuous metrics (like income)-

What are the research questions?
1) What is the cost of the BI? what is the cost of the current system? (you need to take the cost-saving or increase of administration, health,... into account as well)
2) Is there an increase/decrease in [health, income, meaningful activities, job changes,....]
3) Can we validate/falsify previous research questions from other studies?

Only 18-65 or do we include other age groups as well? (I gather that pensions and child support can be replaced as well)

The amount: what is needed to cover the basics:
- food, drinks
- clothing
- a living space
- mobility & public services (gas, electricity, internet, water, transport...)
- education (also for adults!)

I would guestimate this at roughly 1000 Euro on the low end, and 1500 on the high end.
It should not be lower than the minimum wage or the poverty-income (60% of the median income)


Jan Van Opstal Thu 10 Dec 2020 4:58PM

The minimum pension today is .... 1.236,55 euro


Christophe Cop Fri 11 Dec 2020 3:30PM

maybe that would be a good amount to set as UBI?
I personally wouldn't touch the pension system immediately, as changing that would need a larger transition over time (it would be quite unfair to abolish promised pensions who chose their career in function of it for example)


Lander Meeusen Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:51PM

Hi Flo, thanks for the URL. What is it about? Can you summarize it?


Flo Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:55PM

Yes sure. I have a meeting in a few minutes but i can do it after


Flo Wed 9 Dec 2020 3:02PM

Little summery:
The basic income is good for the smart economy. The basic income is a partr for the human rights. The civil servants will be used to support people in place of control them BUT there are the needs of economy (transport, healthcare, etc.), what about them? AND under capitalism basic income could be bad because of capitalism (example: bullshitjobs).


Flo Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:55PM

Basic income must be accompanied by free health care, free education and incidentally free public transportation and free justice.
There also needs to be something in the legislation that prevents employers from lowering the minimum wage because of the basic income as well as increases in consumer prices and rents.
For children, you have to think about the abuse that parents could do with their money. This also applies to the elderly.


Lander Meeusen Wed 9 Dec 2020 12:59PM

So how would you organise an experiment in Belgium?


Josse Wed 9 Dec 2020 1:56PM

Do you know that Bouchez is in favor of a basic income? But also a terrible populist who is not doing the government any good? In other words, it's easily used as a popularity move by politicians, so either CR needs it or doesn't realize it will be hard to swallow at least somewhere in his party.

With Basic Income I see especially two inappropriate responses: 1 We need to define it better, see what it replaces, ... 2 There is still this and this and this that we need to add....

A basic income in itself is a fantastic idea that can advance our civilization. Our society is changing faster and faster and in order for people to continue to make themselves useful in a healthy way, they must wonder less and less whether they will make ends meet. This feeling currently means "great loss" in society. For example, people see that the figures in education are falling because of poverty.

Maybe the experiment should be focused on exactly that: how future-oriented will careers evolve when you provide people with a basic income?

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