The city of Utrecht will start experimenting with a new concept that could revolutionize society as we know it: basic income. Unconditional basic income is a form of social security system in which all residents receive an unconditional sum of money, regardless of whether or not they have another source of income.

Utrecht. Image via Wikipedia.

In many countries, there are advocates for a basic income, and many scientists also back this idea up as a means to not only incentivize people to work in the field they really want to and become more productive, but also to regulate markets and to create economic and social advantages. The concept will allow people more time to study, volunteer and work in what they are truly passionate about. Of course, there is the risk of some people just slacking and relying on the basic income, but the increase in productivity of the former will surpass the deficit of the latter – at least that’s what proponents claim, and what the city of Utrecht wants to find out.

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City officials teamed up with the University College in Utrecht to see if the system can actually work. Alderman for Work and Income Victor Everhardt said in a statement:

“One group is will have compensation and consideration for an allowance, another group with a basic income without rules and of course a control group which adhere to the current rules. Our data shows that less than 1.5 percent abuse the welfare, but, before we get into all kinds of principled debate about whether we should or should not enter, we need to first examine if basic income even really works.”

They are embarking on this experiment without any prejudice, they just want to see whether it works or not.

“What happens if someone gets a monthly amount without rules and controls? Will someone sitting passively at home or do people develop themselves and provide a meaningful contribution to our society?”

The city also plans to talk with other municipalities about setting up similar experiments. They are discussing with Nijmegen, Wageningen, Tilburg and Groningen and they want to start in the second half of this year.

In case you’re wondering whether or not this will work, a number of similar pilot programmes are already underway with positive results. The Namibia BIG Coalition launched a pilot program in Ojivero-Omitara from January 2008 to December 2009 and reported a decrease in poverty, an increase in economic activity, reduced crime, reduced child malnutrition and increased school attendance. In 2010, two pilots were launched in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh. The study found an increase in economic activity as well as an increase in savings, an improvement in housing and sanitation, improved nutrition, less food poverty, improved health and schooling, greater inclusion of the disabled in society and a lack of frivolous spending. Brazil and Alaska also had similar projects, and also reported positive outcomes. All in all, basic income seems like an interesting concept, one that might be here to stay.