German experiment to test effects of basic income

20 Aug 20

Universal basic income is to be trialled in Germany in an experiment to find out what effects it has on people’s lives.

Researchers from the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research will give a group of people €1,200 a month with no conditions attached and monitor changes in their lifestyle and behaviour.

Jurgen Schupp, a researcher involved in the study, said he wants the experiment to find out how UBI might affect aspects of people’s lives such as their work and other activities, their diet and their relationships, and how these effects differ based on demographic factors such as age, their or where they live.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, he said he hoped the experiment will make a meaningful contribution to discussion around UBI, a concept that has grown in popularity amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The debate about basic income has so far been like a philosophical salon in good moments and a war of faith in bad times,” he said.

“It is, on both sides, shaped by clichés. Opponents claim that with a basic income people would stop working in order to lounge on the couch with fast food and streaming services.

“Proponents argue that people will continue to do fulfilling work, become more creative and charitable, and save democracy.”

Schupp said these stereotypes also influence economic simulations of UBI, and he hoped the experiment would help “lead a more appropriate debate”.

The researchers hope to receive one million applications by November, and will randomly select 20,000 people to be interviewed about their lives. From these, 1,500 will be selected to participate in the study: 120 will receive the UBI and the rest will form the control group.

Schupp said he recognises the limits of the study.

“We will not find out anything about the economic consequences, nor about possible shifts in power between employers and employees, the level of net costs or the effects on migration,” he said.

“Our subject of study is narrowly defined: the changes in attitudes and behaviour of people who receive unconditional cash payments for three years.”

Read more: The call for basic income is louder than ever

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