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When will a country adopt Universal Basic Income?

Universal Basic income (UBI), the idea of giving an unconditional social welfare payment, has been a perennial suggestion, going back at least to the Great Depression.

Recently Democratic Candidate Andrew Yang has advocated for a payment of $1000/month to every American (equivalent to about 20% of the median household income in the USA). Some futurists believe that increasing automation will lead to widespread unemployment and calls for such a subsidy. Others argue that much like the industrial revolution, new jobs will replace those destroyed by automation.

When will the first country with a population exceeding 1 million implement Universal Basic Income?

In order to qualify as a UBI for the purposes of this question, the UBI must consist of a payment that is:

  1. Unconditional. Eligibility conditions must be sufficiently expansive to cover over 2/3 of the sum of those with citizenship and those with resident status, and at least 0.5M people (e.g. "all citizens over the age of 18"). There must not be special conditions related to work status, or willingness to work (hence programmes such as the EITC do not count).

  2. Substantial. The sum of yearly payments must equal at least 10% of yearly median nominal personal income in that country, in that year.

  3. Guaranteed. The UBI must guarantee a certain level of income to all members of the specified demographic group. A subsidy that phases out with income (such as a negative income tax) would count.

  4. Ongoing. The country must make these payments at least one full year with the expectation that they will continue to be paid in the future. A one time payment to all citizens without the expectation of similar recurring payments does not count even if it exceeds the 10% threshold.

Additional details:

  • If a UBI was provided by some source other than a country's government (such as a wealthy benefactor, or corporate entity) it would still count for the purposes of resolving this question so long as it met the above criteria within a particular country.

  • "Country" for the purpose of this question means an entity recognized by the majority of UN members as exercising sole sovereignty over the territory where its population resides. A "virtual nation" or territory would not count.

  • The payment must be made in cash-form. The value of goods or services provided by the government does not count toward the 10% threshold even if these are commissioned as part of the income plan.

  • The question will resolve ambiguously if our socioeconomic system changes to such a degree that the terms "country" "person" and "income" can no longer be identified with their current commonly recognized definitions.


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