π Economics
Has the pandemic revived debate over universal basic income?

Examples of “universal basic income”

Richard Robert, Journalist and Author
On October 13th, 2021 |
2 mins reading time
Examples of “universal basic income”

1. The social aidversion

Alaska (1976-): sharing oil revenue and avoiding the creation of a welfare state

The “Alas­ka Per­ma­nent Fund”, based on oil rent, was cre­at­ed in 1976 to avoid devel­op­ing a social pro­tec­tion sys­tem. It pays out div­i­dends which vary accord­ing to oil prices. These reached $2,000 per year in 2015 before decreas­ing. This fund con­cerns 700,000 ben­e­fi­cia­ries; adults and chil­dren. One con­di­tion: to have lived in Alas­ka for the past six months.

Finland (2014–2019): financial security to relaunch professional integration

This test over a five-year peri­od select­ed 2,000 long-term unem­ployed peo­ple aged 25 to 58 years old at ran­dom. They were paid €560 per month, even if they found work again. The objec­tive: to see whether this revi­tal­is­ing effect could relaunch their car­ri­er path. The results were mod­est: “a small impact on employ­ment, an increase in per­ceived eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty, and men­tal well-being.”

France (2017) – The Benoît Hamon project: an unconditional redistribution

A “liv­ing uni­ver­sal income” (“revenu uni­versel d’existence”) of €600 per month would be paid to 19 mil­lion peo­ple, from 18 years old to retire­ment age. The con­di­tions: fis­cal inde­pen­dence (for young peo­ple) and incomes low­er than 1.9 times the min­i­mum wage. How­ev­er, no con­di­tions requir­ing ben­e­fi­cia­ries to seek employ­ment, unlike exist­ing mea­sures. For tax­able cit­i­zens, it would come in the form of tax reduc­tion, for oth­ers, as a neg­a­tive tax.

2. Occasional universal income during the Covid-19 crisis (2020)

Dif­fer­ent coun­tries or provinces opt­ed for a direct deposit for house­holds, in a log­ic of social assis­tance (coun­tries with­out unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fit) or con­sumer support.


The CARES Act (“Coro­n­avirus, Aid, Relief and Eco­nom­ic Secu­ri­ty”) offered an aid of $1,200 max­i­mum per adult (to indi­vid­u­als who earned less than $99,000 dol­lars the pre­vi­ous year) and an addi­tion­al $500 per child (aged 17 years old or under). Num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries: 140 mil­lion people.

Hong Kong

In Feb­ru­ary 2020, the Ter­ri­to­ry gave HK$10,000 (approx­i­mate­ly €1,200) to each of the sev­en mil­lion adult residents.


In April 2020, Japan gave ¥100,000 (~€850) per per­son, for a total cost of €100bn.

3. Empowerment of individuals in developing countries

Madhya Pradesh (India, 2011–2012): a tool for development

Between 2011 and 2012, 5,000 peo­ple in 8 vil­lages of India received a month­ly allowance of 300 rupees per adult (€4.2) and 150 rupees per child. The aim was to empow­er indi­vid­u­als as part of a devel­op­ment approach.

4. Decentralised monetary policy 

Helicopter moneyof the Veblen Institute for Economic Reforms

A pro­pos­al (nev­er imple­ment­ed) was designed to increase the impacts of fis­cal stim­u­lus and to make mon­e­tary pol­i­cy more func­tion­al by direct­ly tar­get­ing cit­i­zens. It con­sist­ed of open­ing an account at the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and deposit­ing between €120–140 of dig­i­tal for each cit­i­zen of the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic Area, regard­less of age (340 mil­lion peo­ple in total).


Richard Robert

Richard Robert

Journalist and Author

Editor of Telos and author, Richard Robert teaches at Sciences Po. He directed the Paris Innovation Review from 2012 to 2018. Latest books: Le Social et le Politique (dir., with Guy Groux and Martial Foucault), CNRS éditions, 2020, La Valse européenne (with Élie Cohen), Fayard, published in March 2021.