Less than two months after the Dutch city of Utrecht announced it will start giving away unconditional free money to people on welfare later this fall, several nearby cities have already jumped on the bandwagon.
In June, Utrecht announced its ambitious year-long experiment: give certain residents a regular and no-strings-attached “basic income” and see if people get out of poverty.
Now over two dozen other Dutch municipalities are thinking about following Utrecht’s lead.
In the city of Tilburg (population: 206,240) the plan is to launch a basic income model for 250 residents beginning in January 2016. They will receive a regular paycheck, most likely around $US1,000, regardless of whether they find work or take in additional income.
The plan follows the University of Utrecht’s model released earlier this year, which involves the same number of people split into five groups: a control group operating under the current laws, three groups with fewer rules, and an unconditional income group that receives money no matter what.
If the experiments pan out favourably, they could be the first concrete examples that basic income works.
Basic income has yet to emerge in full force partly because of logistics and partly because of fear of abuse. But that fear may be misguided, at least in the Netherlands, according to those conducting the experiment.
“The current rules in welfare are bureaucratic and, in a way, based on mistrust,” says Jacqueline Hartogs, spokeswoman for Victor Everhardt, Utrecht alderman for work and income.
Welfare recipients in Utrecht lose their benefits if they can’t find a job, signalling that mistrust, Hartogs tells Tech Insider. “In our scientific experiment,” she says, “we will approach people with less or no rules, to see whether they still make an effort.”
Whether basic income expand can expand outside Europe is still up in the air, says Almaz Zelleke, a New York University political scientist and basic income expert.
The Netherlands is somewhat anomalous among European countries, as it boasts the highest percentage of part-time workers. The small size of cities like Utrecht could also underpin the success of basic income (the city’s population: 311,367).
“So perhaps there is a greater openness to the idea of providing a floor of income security on which citizens can build higher incomes with part-time work,” Zelleke says.
At least going by the statistics, Utrecht’s model of trust doesn’t seem to translate across the pond.
A 2012 poll showed 83% of Americans believe people should be required to work to receive welfare. Otherwise, we’re apt to use the dreaded H-word: handout.
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