Vol.1 No.20, 07 December 2001

Basic Income in Europe and South Africa

In South Africa the payment of a Basic Income Grant (BIG) is being actively promoted by a coalition of NGOs. Readers of SANE Views will have noted that we are actively involved in this process, and currently we have two interns from the US who are working with us on developing ideas and doing background research on the BIG issue. On our website you will find a number of papers and references dealing with this topic, specifically as this can best be introduced in South Africa.

To help us understand the issues around the introduction of the BIG in South Africa, it is important that we take a look at BIG processes in other parts of the world. It is therefore very useful that there is an organisation which keeps up to date with developments in Europe and beyond. This organisation is that of BIEN (Basic Income European Network). BIEN, (an acronym meaning 'well' in French) publishes a bi-monthly 'news flash' which is distributed electronically. Below we provide a brief summary of what may be read in the most recent BIEN News Flash #12.

  1. A conference on the topic of 'Basic Income And The Future Of Work' is to take place in Mulheim in Germany in February 2002; the first USBIG is to take place in New York in March; and the ninth congress of BIEN is to take place in Geneva in September 2002.
  2. A number of recent publications are summarised, for example a lengthy paper in the Yale Law Journal on the topic 'Work vs Freedom'. The argument is made there that a basic income is not charity but a way of making practical the liberal commitment to real freedom.
  3. A brief outline is given of the nature of the 'Citizen's Income Newsletter' published by the London School of Economics (LSE).
  4. Several books are reviewed on topics such as: ' Reducing Income and Wealth Inequality', and 'Poverty, Justice and Social Security'
  5. Addresses are provided of basic income National networks in the UK, Netherlands, Ireland, Spain, Austria, France, Germany, and Sweden. Outside Europe, addresses are given for basic income groups in Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. South Africa does not feature ... yet.
  6. Information is also given on the structure and foundation of BIEN, on how to subscribe to BIEN Newsflashes (send an e-mail message to [email protected] with the words Subscribe BIEN in the subject line), how to become a member of BIEN, who are the committee members, what to do if you wish to submit a paper to one of the conferences, etc.
  7. BIEN's website address is: http://www.basicincome.org

I think it is important not to slavishly follow for South Africa the model of the basic income as it is proposed for European and other countries. Our country is very different from all of them (except perhaps that there may be important similarities to a country such as Brazil). In most countries the poor and destitute make up a relatively small proportion of the total population; in South Africa it is the majority. In developed countries a small proportion of the total labour force can produce enough for the entire population. In South Africa there is a vast amount of work to be done to develop poor communities; there are enough hands to do the work but there is no money to pay them or to supply the materials needed. A basic income will go a long way towards lifting the entire economy out of its serious depression and unemployment problems.

Aart Roukens de Lange
December 2001

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