What is Basic Income?

A Citizen's Basic Income is an unconditional income for every citizen.

Basic Income is defined in the CBIT constitution, accepted by the Charities Commission in 2021, as follows:

“A Basic Income is a periodic, uniform (except by age), unconditional cash payment, delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or behavioural requirement.”

That is, Basic income, has the following 6 characteristics:

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis – and not, for instance, based on a couple or household.
  4. Universal: indicated who is eligible. It is paid to all, including children, without means test.
  5. Uniform: the amount of a basic income is the same (equal) for everyone within a jurisdiction, at a given time, and does not vary according to pre-existing categories or circumstances, except that it could vary by age.
  6. Unconditional: it is paid without any behavioural requirements. It is obligation-free.

The term ‘basic’ refers to the fact that it is a foundational income, or income floor, on which each can build with income from other sources. For example, it is compatible with the idea of Basic Income Plus which would include additional payments for additional needs, like meeting the costs caused by disability or sickness.

Some times people use other terms for Basic Income, such as: Citizen’s Basic Income, Citizen’s Income, Universal Basic Income (UBI), Social Dividend, or Universal Grant.

Next: Why do we need UBI?