What would you do if you get 1.000 Euro per month without having to work for it? "I would write a book," says the elderly lady at the table. "Working less," says the man sitting opposite her. The young woman wearing a headscarf would save to start her own business. Others would travel more, some would change nothing in life. On this evening, 40 people will do a self-experiment in a workshop of the Catholic Social Academy of Austria. They discuss in groups how life would change with a Unconditional Basic Income (BGE).
But what exactly is this BGE? Every adult citizen receives the same amount of money every month from the state, regardless of whether he is a top earner, unemployed person or drug addict. It is not subject to any conditions. Depending on the model, the BGE accounts for around 1.100 to 1.200 Euro, which is more than half of the median income of currently 2.100. If you want, you can still work, but you do not have to. The theory sees the BGE not as an alternative to our current acquisition system, but as an addition. For teens, a reduced BGE of around 800 Euro would apply. In return, transfer payments, such as unemployment benefits, child benefit and minimum income, are not required.
Performance for self-esteem
If you live economically, you can live with the BGE without having to earn it. Especially if several BGE recipients live in one household. Is not that a license to loaf? "No," says work psychologist Johann Beran, "because we pull our performance from our self-esteem. And every person strives for high self-esteem. "
So a BGE would not stretch all fours off all day, but do what they like to do. And that includes working too. "For the most part, people would still go to work," says Beran. On the one hand to earn additional money, on the other hand to get satisfaction through performance and structure. In addition, they would be creative and social, as well as live out their hobbies. This in turn promotes personal development, culture and stimulates new ideas. From an economic point of view, this is the breeding ground for innovation. "In our society, it is currently not allowed to try something and perhaps fail. This looks stupid in the CV later, "criticizes Beran. The dilution of the mainstream is important so that there is no surplus of hairdressers and mechanics among the apprentices.
Even in the social field, a lot could change: "If people feel better themselves through more free time, they also perceive their fellow human beings more intensively," summarizes Beran. More volunteer work, in clubs and more time for the family would be the consequences. The bottom line is that people are much more self-determined and therefore less manageable. What could displease the policy, however.
Beran does not believe that the BGE generates more lazybones and argues: "People who drop themselves in the social system and drink and spit all day long are already there." However, laziness should not be fundamentally demonized. "We are not made for continuous operation," says Beran.
Or with conditions?
In the debate around the BGE, another variant of the state-financed income occasionally resonates: a basic income that is conditional, such as a few hours of compulsory work per week. What work is done does not matter. Whether at an NGO, retirement home, a part-time job in the private sector or work in your own company - everything is permissible. On the one hand, this could act as a cost damper for the state, making it easier to finance the secured income and, on the other hand, preventing the danger of a "social hammock". In addition, it could provide incentives for education to meet the work obligation in its desired position.
The effects of this model are just as hard to predict as in the case of the BGE, because the human factor is not fully predictable. Are we developing into better people if we have obligations for the basic income or are we doing without it? "Basic income with work obligation means to put people under general suspicion, to be lazy," says work psychologist Johann Beran. It makes more sense, according to Beran, to introduce compulsory personality-building programs. These include supervisions, workshops to identify weaknesses and talents as well as consultations for company founders. That would give some a "push". "You can not expect everyone to automatically think about themselves when making a basic income and thus create value for society," says Beran. Such programs would increase the motivation to be creative because of financial freedom.
No danger to existence
Why do we need a BGE? "Why do we still have poverty as a rich country," says Helmo Pape, BGE advocate and founder of the "Generation Grundeinkommen" association, flippantly. "To ensure a livelihood for every human being," the former investment banker continues. Nobody would have to do any more wage work just to exist at all. The pressure of existence would be eliminated .. This financial freedom is so important to Pape that he wants to initiate 2018 a referendum. He is currently on 3.500 of 100.000 necessary supporters.
"The BGE motivates people to work on meaning and not on wages," explains Pape. Whether wages generally rise or fall can not be answered on a flat-rate basis. A look into the details shows that people are increasingly doing the jobs that make sense for them and that they enjoy doing. These include caring for relatives, raising children, making a contribution to protecting the environment, repairing things and promoting culture and customs. Wages in these jobs will fall, depending on the mechanism of supply and demand. Prestigious jobs like lawyer or doctor are done by people who do it out of conviction, not money.
Conversely, this means that unpopular and hitherto poorly paid jobs, such as cleaning, will hardly ever be manpower, because nobody has to compromise on their livelihood. Conversely, someone cleaning toilets will be desperately wanted on the job market and deserve a golden nose. Wages for such jobs will rise.
And what happens when there is no more workforce for the "dirty work"? "These activities are being driven into digitization and automation," says Pape, seeing it as a driver of innovation. "How about self-cleaning toilets?"
Pape predicts as further consequences that exploitative companies will leave Austria ("Who wants to work there already?"). In addition, production in this country could become cheaper, as all links in the value chain, from the boss to the supplier, already have an income and pursue lower sales targets.
As in the labor market, it also looks like in education. "People will not study what gives them the best job opportunities, but what they are most interested in," says Pape. A sumptuous Audimax in a rousing archeology professor would be well possible. There will be fewer Jus, BWL, and medical students. However, there is a danger of stagnation because less pressure to earn money could lead to less interest in education. Critics say it's a signal to the youth that it's not needed.
Financing through higher taxes
Where should the money for the BGE come from? The hard way is to increase sales tax by up to 100 percent, instead of the previous ten and 20 percent. Prominent advocate of this radical variant is the German entrepreneur and founder of the drugstore chain dm, Götz Werner, which also calls for the abolition of all other taxes. Sounds simple, but is unfair. Because a high VAT rate hits both wealthy and poor alike.
Another model for financing, the NGO "Attac", which advocates for more equity in economic policy. The BGE costs around one third to half of the gross domestic
products, ie between 117 and 175 billion euros. The majority will come in through higher income taxes. For incomes from zero to 5.000 euros that would be ten percent (currently zero percent) and from 29.000 55 percent (instead of currently 42). In between changes with 25 to 38 percent nothing compared to our current model. This leads to more redistribution between good and bad earners. In addition, one would have to increase the capital gains tax, as well as introduce inheritance and financial transaction tax. And if something is missing, finally, there is also the increase in sales tax
Criticism: less incentive to work
Back at the workshop of the Catholic Social Academy. Meanwhile, the noise level in the room is high, because among the participants are not only advocates. Small, heated debates quickly develop. Critics say: "Everybody should do something for it, if he gets something out of the pot" or "That supports the Owezahrer even more."
The BGE also sees the Economic Chamber critically. There, one expects a shortage of labor supply. "Some take the BGE as an incentive to work, others bring extremely high taxation. The factor labor would be appreciably more expensive, so that domestic companies would lose massive competitiveness, "says Rolf Gleißner, Deputy Head of Social Policy Department. In addition, a BGE could attract immigration. "That would raise the costs for the state once again," said Gleißner
Also at the Arbeiterkammer you are not thrilled with the BGE, because it is at the expense of justice. The BGE does not differentiate between people who need support and those who do not need it. "Therefore, groups would receive support, which need because of their income and wealth situation no additional benefit from the solidarity system," outlines Norman Wagner of the Department of Social Policy.
Unlike our current system of transfer payments, which are conditional, the BGE would get everyone exceptionally well. This does not create envy, as is the case with unemployment benefit and minimum income protection. However, the idea of the BGE can not be introduced overnight. Estimates suggest that it could take two to three generations for us to get used to and deal with it.
Initiatives Basic Income
Referendum in Switzerland - The Swiss spoke to 2016 in a referendum against a BGE of 2.500 francs (around 2.300 Euro) a month. 78 percent opposed it. The reason for the negative attitude should have been doubts about the financing. The government also railed against the BGE.
2.000 subjects in Finland - Since the beginning of 2017, 2.000 randomly selected, unemployed Finns receive a BNG of 560 Euro per month for two years. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä wants to motivate people to look for a job and work more in the low-wage sector. In addition, the state administration can save money because the Finnish social system is very complex.
BGE lottery - The Berlin association "My basic income" collects crowdfunding donations for unconditional basic income. Whenever 12.000 Euro are together, they will be raffled to one person. So far 85 have enjoyed this.
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