EPC Debate: ‘Universal Basic Income versus a European Minimum Income: finding the best answer to Europe’s social challenges.’

At this head-to-head debate, organised by the European Policy Centre, speakers discussed these two ways of guaranteeing social protection and addressing the growing social challenges of today. Yannick Vanderborght, Professor of Political Science at Université Saint Louis and member of the BIEN board, defended the reasons why basic income is a good solution to avoid arbitrary distinctions between deserving and non-deserving poor, avoid stigma and shame that cause non-take-up, whilst at the same time avoiding poverty traps. Anne Van Lancker, EMIN policy coordinator, explained what adequate, accessible and enabling minimum income schemes could bring, not just to the people who need them, but to the whole of society. She made it clear that EMIN seeks to progressively change existing poor, conditioned and punitive systems into universally accessible income support as an essential element of social protection floors, that must ensure access to basic income security for all over the life cycle. She stressed that, when allocating public resources, priority should be given to systems that respect ‘progressive universalism’, ensuring universal rights whilst at the same time granting more help to people who really need it. It is clear that basic income scenarios require a lot more funding than lifting minimum income systems above the poverty threshold.

The debate showed clearly that, despite the difference between both proposals, there are also many common approaches to the issue of income security. Conclusions seem to be that on eliminating conditionality and ensuring individual rights, both proposals show more common ground than expected. Therefore, Anne expressed the wish to cooperate more closely between the two networks, to engage in discussions on new ways of looking at poverty eradication, quality of work and social protection and redistribution of income.

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