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Rethinking Welfare: Understanding Basic Income in Barcelona

Amanda Hill-Dixon, The Young Foundation, London

The Young Foundation is currently conducting basic income related research in Barcelona as part of the B-MINCOME experiment (named after the 1970s trial of Mincome in Manitoba, Canada). B-MINCOME is a two-year trial of minimum income involving around 1000 participants and 1000 people in the control group in Besos, some of the poorest neighbourhoods in eastern Barcelona.

Like the majority of other trials going on in the global North, B-MINCOME is not strictly speaking a UBI  but can more accurately be described as a minimum income. Although a minority of recipients are receiving a minimum income unconditionally and without risk of withdrawal (during the trial), the trial is targeted at the poorest in Barcelona, and many participants receive their income on a conditional basis and it is subject to withdrawal if their earnings increase. Nevertheless, we expect the study to shed light on potential basic income policies and how the variables of conditionality, withdrawability, and transfer amount, affect people’s outcomes.

So what is unique about B-MINCOME and what will it add to our understanding of basic income?

  1. Southern European context. B-MINCOME is the first major trial of a basic income in a Southern European context, still characterised in many ways by the impact of the 2008 economic and housing crisis, the centrality of the family for meeting social needs, and a discretionary approach to social protection. This will be the first time that the implementation of a basic income can be assessed in this type of context.
  2. Active support as well as cash. Participants are encouraged or obliged to participate in support programmes related to employment, social enterprise, housing or community action. This will allow us to investigate how people experience the combination of additional resources with active support and the impact this has.
  3. Households, not individuals. Consistent with the centrality of families in Spanish society, the income is being given to families, rather than individuals. This will allow us to explore how far individuals within households benefit equally and if there are any impacts on household dynamics, especially in relation to gender relations.
  4. Some participants are receiving the income conditionally and others are receiving it unconditionally. This will allow us to examine the impact that conditionality has on people’s experience of and use of the income.
  5. Lived experience. The Young Foundation and Barcelona City Council are conducting in-depth longitudinal ethnographic and participatory research with both B-MINCOME participants and the community more broadly. This depth of qualitative research offers unprecedented opportunity to explore people’s lived experience of basic income, how they understand it, view it, relate with it and why, and to what extent it affects experiences of scarcity. In particular, we will be able to explore the question of psychological feasibility – what are the enablers and barriers to the social acceptability of basic income – and what are the mechanisms of or barriers to change.

The Young Foundation will be releasing research findings in 2019. For any questions, please contact Amanda Hill-Dixon, Senior Researcher at The Young Foundation, Amanda.hill-dixon@youngfoundation.org