What and why basic income? It's the way human can live humanely.
Universal basic income (U.B.I.) is a hot topic in the economic and political circles mustering support, criticism, and speculation. While the topic has started receiving attention in recent years, it’s by no means a new concept. In fact, it’s conception can be traced back to 16th century Europe.
In South Korea, a technologically advanced country facing rapid automation, there is a dire need to plan policies that will protect the citizens. Since 2016, South Korea has implemented several small scale basic income experiments ran by local city and provincial governments.
Last year Gyeonggi-do opened a new chapter in South Korean basic income debate introducing Youth Basic Income project.
What is Basic Income?
Universal basic income (U.B.I) is a public program where a periodic payment is delivered to all individuals. U.B.I. is different from other welfare programs in that every adult, regardless of their financial status, will be able to receive payment equally and unconditionally.
|What is important about basic income|
· Periodic: it’s paid regularly at regular intervals.
· Cash payment: the individuals decide how to spend it (as opposed to vouchers, food stamps, etc.).
· Individual: it’s paid to every individual (as opposed to couples, households, etc.).
· Universal: it’s given to everyone as a right, without them having to prove their means.
· Unconditional: the individual is not expected to fulfill any requirements to receive or keep receiving the funds.
U.B.I. critics worry it could lead people to leave the workforce and choose idle life. The proponents of the basic income, however, cite numerous benefits including battling inequality, balancing wealth distribution, fighting inhumane work conditions, countering job losses due to AI and automation.
Some scientists add that basic income can help alleviate our current environmental crisis by breaking the line between work and consumption, as well as reducing the human dependency on land.
The hope remains strong that U.B.I. can enable the people to follow their interests and invest their time in work they find meaningful.
The Gyeonggi-do Youth Basic Income Project
In 2016 Seongnam city in Gyeonggi-do was the first Korean city to experiment with basic income. Since then, many programs and plans are put to the test around the country. In 2019, Gyeonggi-do started undertaking one of the biggest basic income plans in the world with the launch of the Youth Basic Income project.
Gyeonggi-do started the project focusing on empowering the youth while also strengthening the local economy.
Gyeonggi-do’s Youth Basic Income Project Details
In 2019 Geyonggi-do’s Youth Basic Income program launched to be the third biggest basic income policy in the world. Under this new policy, the 24 years old residents of the province will receive a payment of 1 Million Won total throughout 1 year. The payment is given out once each quarter in the form of a local currency.
On average, the 24 years old have just finished university and are transitioning to the job market. In South Korea, many students have to take additional courses after finishing university to convince the employers they have sufficient skills. On top of that, the job market is extremely competitive making the job hunt lengthy and high pressure. Gyeonggi-do plans to support the youth, who fall in a welfare dead zone, to alleviate some of the pressures of early adult life.
Apart from the age group, one of the special features of the policy is the use of local currency, a credit that can be spent in local small businesses. The local currency can be spent like cash, the participants decide how to spend it. This mechanism allows the Gyeonggi-do government to support the youth and at the same time support the local businesses. The policymakers hope the basic income plan, through careful implementation, can benefit individuals in all stages of life.
What Did The Participants Think?
|2019 Gyeonggi-do Youth Basic Income Festival|
According to Basic Income Korea Network(BIKN), the final survey shows a 77% satisfaction rate. One of the main aspects of the program that the respondents liked was the fact that the payments were given to every 24 years old and the plan was inclusive of all. This suggests the importance of universality, as one of the main pillars of U.B.I., for the success of similar programs. The respondents also mentioned the cash-like nature of the payment as a positive point.
The recipients of the Gyeonggi-do Youth Basic Income also stated that while the payments are not enough to live on, it lead to psychological comfort, allowing them to focus on their job search. In an interview, a participant said they were now more interested in politics now after seeing how directly their lives are influenced by it.
Hopes For The Future
As the basic income experiments in different cities and provinces increase, Gyeonggi-do will be developing and expanding its programs, aiming to leave an exemplary mark, and paving the path for positive change in South Korea.
In 2020, the Youth Basic income project will continue and it’s estimated that a matching number of 24-year-olds will be benefited. Gyeonggi-do is looking into new ways to fund its expanding basic income policy by reforming taxes put on land possession and real estate.
Besides, 2020 sees the launch of a new basic income experiment in Gyeonggi-do which delivers payments to the resident farmers.