Guaranteed minimum income

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Guaranteed minimum income (GMI), also called minimum income (or mincome for short), [1] is a social-welfare system that guarantees all citizens or families an income sufficient to live on, provided that certain eligibility conditions are met, typically: citizenship; a means test; and either availability to participate in the labor market, or willingness to perform community services.


The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is reduction of poverty. In circumstances when citizenship is the sole qualification, the program becomes a universal basic income system.


A system of guaranteed minimum income can consist of several elements, most notably:

Differences from basic income

Basic income means the provision of identical payments from a government to all of its citizens. Guaranteed minimum income is a system of payments (possibly only one) by a government to citizens who fail to meet one or more means tests. While most modern countries have some form of GMI, a basic income is rare.


Pre-modern antecedents

Persian monarch Cyrus the Great ( ca 590-ca 529 B.C.), whose government used a regulated minimum wage, also provided special rations to families when a child was born. [4]

The Roman Republic and Empire offered the Cura Annonae, a regular distribution of free or subsidized grain or bread to poorer residents. The grain subsidy was first introduced by Gaius Gracchus in 123 B.C., then further institutionalized by Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. [5] [6]

The first Sunni Muslim  Caliph   Abu Bakr, who came to power in 632 C.E., introduced a guaranteed minimum standard of income, granting each man, woman and child ten dirhams annually. This was later increased to twenty dirhams. [7] [ better source needed ]

Modern proposals

In 1795, American revolutionary Thomas Paine advocated a citizen's dividend to all United States citizens as compensation for "loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property" ( Agrarian Justice , 1795).

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte echoed Paine's sentiments and commented that 'man is entitled by birthright to a share of the Earth's produce sufficient to fill the needs of his existence' (Herold, 1955).

The American economist Henry George advocated for a dividend paid to all citizens from the revenue generated by a land value tax. [8]

American economist Milton Friedman began advocating a basic income in the form of a negative income tax in the early 1940’s. He discusses the proposal his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom and his 1980 book Free to Choose . [9] [10]

In 1963, Robert Theobald published the book Free Men and Free Markets, in which he advocated a guaranteed minimum income (the origin of the modern version of the phrase).

In 1966, the Cloward–Piven strategy advocated "overloading" the US welfare system to force its collapse in the hopes that it would be replaced by "a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty".

In his final book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), Martin Luther King Jr. wrote [11]

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

from the chapter titled "Where We Are Going"

In 1968, James Tobin, Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth Galbraith and another 1,200 economists signed a document calling for the US Congress to introduce in that year a system of income guarantees and supplements. [12]

In 1969, President Richard Nixon's Family Assistance Plan would have paid a minimum income to poor families. The proposal by Nixon passed in the House but never made it out of committee in the Senate.[ citation needed ]

In 1973, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote The Politics of a Guaranteed Income, in which he advocated the guaranteed minimum income and discussed Richard Nixon's Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) proposal. [13]

In 1987, New Zealand's Labour Finance Minister Roger Douglas announced a Guaranteed Minimum Family Income Scheme to accompany a new flat tax. Both were quashed by then Prime Minister David Lange, who sacked Douglas. [14]

In his 1994 "autobiographical dialog", classical liberal Friedrich Hayek stated: "I have always said that I am in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country". [15]

In 2013, the Equal Life Foundation published the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal, [16] illustrating a practical way to implement and fund a minimum guaranteed income. [17]

In 2017, Harry A. Shamir (US) published the book Consumerism, or Capitalism Without Crises, in which the concept was promoted by another label, as a way to enable our civilization to survive in an era of automation and computerization and large scale unemployment. The book also innovates a method to fund the process, tapping into the underground economy and volunteerism.

Other modern advocates include Ayşe Buğra (Turkey), The Green Economics Institute (GEI), [18] and Andrew Coyne (Canada). [19]


Tax revenues would fund the majority of GMI proposals. As most GMI proposals seek to create an earnings floor close to or above poverty lines amongst all citizens, the fiscal burden would require equally broad tax sources, such as income taxes or VATs. To varying degrees, a GMI might be funded through the reduction or elimination of other social security programs, such as unemployment insurance.

Another approach for funding is to acknowledge that all modern economies use fiat money and thus taxation is not necessary for funding. However, the fact that there are no financial constraints does not mean other constraints, such as on real resources, do not exist. A likely outcome based on the economic theory known as Modern Monetary Theory would be a moderate increase in taxation to ensure the extra income would not cause demand-pull inflation. This hypothetical Chartalist approach can be seen in the implementation of quantitative easing programs where, in the United States, over three trillion dollars [20] [21] were created without requiring taxes.

Examples around the world


Minimum income has been increasingly accepted by the Brazilian government. In 2004, President  Lula da Silva signed into law a bill to establish a universal basic income. [22]  This law is primarily implemented through the  Bolsa Família  program. Under this program, poorer families receive a direct cash payment via a government issued debit card. Bolsa Família is a  conditional cash transfer  program, meaning that beneficiaries receive their aid if they accomplish certain actions. Families who receive the aid must put their children in school and participate in vaccination programs. If they do not meet these requirements, they are cut off from aid. [23]  The program has been criticised as vote-buying, trading productive individuals' earning for the votes of welfare recipients [24] As of 2011, approximately 50 million people, or a quarter of Brazil's population, were participating in Bolsa Família. [25]


Canada has experimented with minimum income trials. During the  Mincome  experiment in  Manitoba  in the 1970s, Mincome provided lower-income families with cash transfers to keep them out of poverty. [26]  The trial was eventually ended but this was due to budget shortfalls and a change in government.

The province of  Ontario  began a minimum income experiment in 2017. Approximately 4000 citizens began to receive a stipend based on their family situation and income. [27]  Recipients of this program could receive upwards of $10,000 per year. Government researchers used this pilot as a way of testing to see if a minimum income can help people meet their basic needs. [28] On 31 August 2018, following a change in government, incoming Premier Doug Ford announced that the pilot would be cancelled at the end of the current fiscal year.


China's Minimum Livelihood Guarantee also called dibao, is a means-tested social assistance scheme introduced in 1993 and expanded to all Chinese cities in 1999. [29] [30] [31]


In July 2013, the Cypriot government unveiled a plan to reform the welfare system in Cyprus and create a 'Guaranteed Minimum Income' for all citizens. [32]


Kontanthjælp (formerly known as bistandshjælp) is a public benefit in Denmark granted to citizens who would otherwise not be able to support themselves or their families. In principle, cash benefits are a universal right for all citizens who meet certain statutory criteria.


A subsistence allowance is financial help for a person or family in need, which provides minimal resources for everyday life (food, medicine, housing costs, etc.).


Basic subsistence allowance paid by Kela may be granted to a person or family whose income and assets are insufficient to cover the necessary daily expenses.


In 1988, France was one of the first countries to implement a minimum income, called the Revenu minimum d'insertion. In 2009, it was turned into Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), a new system that aimed to solve the poverty trap by providing low-wage workers a complementary income to encourage activity.


Financial assistance (fjárhagsaðstoð) is for individuals and families who cannot support themselves and their livelihoods without assistance, with the aim of supporting people to help themselves and to be able to support themselves. [33]


Modern independent India developed many means and livelihood tested cash transfer programs through Direct Benefit Transfer at both the federal and the state level. At the federal level, these include minimum income social pension programs such as National Social Assistance Scheme, guaranteed employment program like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 or a disability aid like Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme. At the state level, there can be additional minimum income programs, one such being "Laksmir Bhandar" run by the state of West Bengal that transfers a minimum aid to families without work in the state. [34]


In Ireland, €20 of earnings per day of permitted work (beneficiaries are allowed up to three days per week) is disregarded from employment income when calculating Jobseekers’ Allowance entitlement and deductions are calculated as 60 percent of earnings less this income disregard. In addition, the Part-time Job Incentive Scheme and Back to Work Family Dividend are fixed-duration payments offered to the long-term unemployed incentive moving into work. In return for relinquishing claims to primary assistance benefits, both schemes provide benefits for a fixed duration that are slightly lower than household GMI entitlements, but which are not tapered with employment income, subject to certain eligibility requirements. Ireland’s relatively generous tapering system serves to smooth disincentives to increase income and work and contributes to their lower measured participation tax rates (PTRs) and marginal effective tax rates (METRs). [35]


The citizens' income is a social welfare system created in Italy in January 2019. [36] [37] Although its name recalls one of a universal basic income, this provision is actually a form of conditional and non-individual guaranteed minimum income. [38] [39]



Income support can be granted if the applicant has insufficient income and resources to live on and is not entitled to other social security benefits. Income support is paid by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a Citizen’s Account Program which provides a basic income to registered citizens.[ citation needed ] In December 2017, immediately before the program began, more than 3.7 million households had registered, representing 13 million people, or more than half the population. [40] as of 2013, between one fifth and one third of Saudi residents are estimated to be non-citizens. [41] [42] [43] [ needs update ]


In Spain, the ingreso mínimo vital is an economic benefit guaranteed by the Social security in Spain in its modality no contributory. The IMV is defined as a "subjective right" and is intended to prevent poverty and social exclusion of people who live alone or integrated into a coexistence unit when they are in a situation of vulnerability due to lack of sufficient financial resources to cover their basic needs. [44] The benefit, which is not fixed and varies depending on various factors, ranges between 462 and 1015 euros per month, is expected to cover 850,000 households (approximately 2.5 million people) and will cost the government 3 billion euros per year. [44] [45]


Social assistance consists partly of a "national standard" (riksnorm) and partly of "reasonable costs outside the national standard". The national standard includes costs such as food, clothing and footwear. Reasonable non-standard costs include rent and household electricity.

United States

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933 [46]

The United States has multiple social programs that provide guaranteed minimum incomes for individuals meeting certain criteria such as assets or disability. For instance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. SSI was created in 1974 to replace federal-state adult assistance programs that served the same purpose. Today the program provides benefits to approximately eight million Americans. Another such program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI), a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. It is managed by the Social Security Administration and is designed to provide income supplements to people who are restricted in their ability to work because of a disability, usually a physical disability. SSD can be supplied on either a temporary or permanent basis, usually directly correlated to whether the person's disability is temporary or permanent.

An early guaranteed minimum income program in the U.S. was the  Aid to Families with Dependent Children  (AFDC), established by the  Social Security Act. Where previously the responsibility to assist needy children lay in the hands of the states, AFDC transferred that authority to the federal government. [47]  Over time, the AFDC was often criticized for creating disincentives to work, leading to many arguing for its replacement. In the 1970s, President  Richard M. Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Program (FAP), which would replace the AFDC. FAP was intended to fix many of the problems of the AFDC, particularly the anti-work structure. Presidential nominee George McGovern also proposed a minimum income—in the form of a Universal Tax Credit. Ultimately, neither of these programs was implemented. Throughout the decade, many other experimental minimum income programs were carried out in cities throughout the country, such as the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiments. [48]  In 1996, under President  Bill Clinton, the AFDC was replaced with the  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  program. This would  block grant  funds to the states to allow them to decide how aid would be distributed. [47]

Another guaranteed minimum income program in the U.S. is the  Earned Income Tax Credit.  This is a refundable tax credit that gives poorer families cash assistance every year. The EITC avoids the  welfare trap  by subsidizing income, rather than replacing it. [49]

Other countries

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Welfare</span> Means-oriented social benefit

Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter. Social security may either be synonymous with welfare, or refer specifically to social insurance programs which provide support only to those who have previously contributed, as opposed to social assistance programs which provide support on the basis of need alone. The International Labour Organization defines social security as covering support for those in old age, support for the maintenance of children, medical treatment, parental and sick leave, unemployment and disability benefits, and support for sufferers of occupational injury.

Welfare reforms are changes in the operation of a given welfare system, with the goals of reducing the number of individuals dependent on government assistance, keeping the welfare systems affordable, and assisting recipients to become self-sufficient. Classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives generally argue that welfare and other tax-funded services reduce incentives to work, exacerbate the free-rider problem, and intensify poverty. On the other hand, socialists generally criticize welfare reform because it usually minimizes the public safety net and strengthens the capitalist economic system. Welfare reform is constantly debated because of the varying opinions on the government's determined balance of providing guaranteed welfare benefits and promoting self-sufficiency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Temporary Assistance for Needy Families</span> U.S. federal aid program

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a federal assistance program of the United States. It began on July 1, 1997, and succeeded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, providing cash assistance to indigent American families through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. TANF is often simply referred to as welfare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bolsa Família</span> Government social welfare program in Brazil

Bolsa Família was a social welfare program of the Government of Brazil, part of the Fome Zero network of federal assistance programs. Bolsa Família provided financial aid to poor Brazilian families. In order to be eligible, families had to ensure that children attend school and get vaccinated. If they exceeded the total of permitted school absences, they were dropped from the program and their funds were suspended. The program attempted to both reduce short-term poverty by direct cash transfers and fight long-term poverty by increasing human capital among the poor through conditional cash transfers. It also worked to give free education to children who couldn't afford to go to school, to show the importance of education. In 2008, The Economist described Bolsa Família as an "anti-poverty scheme invented in Latin America [which] is winning converts worldwide." The program was a centerpiece of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's social policy and is reputed to have played a role in his victory in the general election of 2006. Bolsa Família was the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, though the Mexican Oportunidades was the first nationwide program of this kind.

Social welfare has long been an important part of New Zealand society and a significant political issue. It is concerned with the provision by the state of benefits and services. Together with fiscal welfare and occupational welfare, it makes up the social policy of New Zealand. Social welfare is mostly funded through general taxation. Since the 1980s welfare has been provided on the basis of need; the exception is universal superannuation.

Social security in India includes a variety of statutory insurances and social grant schemes bundled into a formerly complex and fragmented system run by the Indian government at the federal and the state level and is divided into three categories: non-contributory and tax-payer-funded, employer-funded and lastly, joint-funded. The system has since been universalised with the passing of The Code on Social Security, 2020. These cover most of the Indian population with adequate social protection in various situations in their lives. The Indian social security system is considered to be one of the most generous in the world amongst developing countries. The Central Government of India's social security and welfare expenditures are a substantial portion of the official budget and as well as the budgets of social security bodies, and state and local governments play roles in developing and implementing social security policies. Additional welfare measure systems are also uniquely operated by various state governments. The government uses the unique identity number (Aadhar) that every Indian possesses to distribute welfare measures in India. The comprehensive social protection system of India can be categorised as the follows: social assistance and mandatory social security contributory schemes mostly related to employment. The Code on Social Security, 2020 is part of the Indian labor code that deals with employees' social security and have provisions on retirement pension and provident fund, healthcare insurance and medical benefits, sick pay and leaves, unemployment benefits and paid parental leaves. The largest social security programs backed by The Code on Social Security, 2020 are the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation for retirement pension, provident fund, life and disability insurance and the Employees' State Insurance for healthcare and unemployment benefits along with sick pays. There is also the National Pension System which is increasingly gaining popularity. These are funded through social insurance contributions on the payroll. While the National Food Security Act, 2013, that assures food security to all Indians, is funded through the general taxation. With the passing of the social security code by the Indian Parliament, the fragmented social security system was universalised, resembling the social security systems of most developed countries.

The welfare trap theory asserts that taxation and welfare systems can jointly contribute to keep people on social insurance because the withdrawal of means-tested benefits that comes with entering low-paid work causes there to be no significant increase in total income. According to this theory, an individual sees that the opportunity cost of getting a better paying job is too great for too little a financial return, and this can create a perverse incentive to not pursue a better paying job.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Negative income tax</span> Proposed tax reform

In economics, a negative income tax (NIT) is a system which reverses the direction in which tax is paid for incomes below a certain level; in other words, earners above that level pay money to the state while earners below it receive money, as shown by the blue arrows in the diagram. NIT was proposed by Juliet Rhys-Williams while working on the Beveridge Report in the early 1940s and popularized by Milton Friedman in the 1960s as a system in which the state makes payments to the poor when their income falls below a threshold, while taxing them on income above that threshold. Together with Friedman, supporters of NIT also included James Tobin, Joseph A. Pechman, and Peter M. Mieszkowski, and even then-President Richard Nixon, who suggested implementation of modified NIT in his Family Assistance Plan. After the increase in popularity of NIT, an experiment sponsored by the US government was conducted between 1968 and 1982 on effects of NIT on labour supply, income, and substitution effects.

Welfare in France includes all systems whose purpose is to protect people against the financial consequences of social risks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Social programs in the United States</span> Overview of social programs in the United States of America

Social programs in the United States are programs designed to ensure that the basic needs of the American population are met. Federal and state social programs include cash assistance, health insurance, food assistance, housing subsidies, energy and utilities subsidies, and education and childcare assistance. Similar benefits are sometimes provided by the private sector either through policy mandates or on a voluntary basis. Employer-sponsored health insurance is an example of this.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Universal basic income</span> Welfare system of unconditional income

Universal basic income (UBI) is a social welfare proposal in which all citizens of a given population regularly receive a guaranteed income in the form of an unconditional transfer payment. It would be received independently of any other income. If the level is sufficient to meet a person's basic needs, it is sometimes called a full basic income; if it is less than that amount, it may be called a partial basic income. No country has yet introduced either, although there have been numerous pilot projects and the idea is discussed in many countries. Some have labelled UBI as utopian due to its historical origin.

Welfare culture refers to the behavioral consequences of providing poverty relief to low-income individuals. Welfare is considered a type of social protection, which may come in the form of remittances, such as 'welfare checks', or subsidized services, such as free/reduced healthcare, affordable housing, and more. Pierson (2006) has acknowledged that, like poverty, welfare creates behavioral ramifications, and that studies differ regarding whether welfare empowers individuals or breeds dependence on government aid. Pierson also acknowledges that the evidence of the behavioral effects of welfare varies across countries, because different countries implement different systems of welfare.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Social Assistance Scheme</span>

The National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Government of India that provides financial assistance to the elderly, widows and persons with disabilities in the form of social pensions.

The California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program is the California welfare implementation of the federal welfare-to-work Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that provides cash aid and services to eligible needy California families.

Universal basic income in Canada refers to the debate and trials with basic income, negative income and related welfare systems in Canada. The debate goes back to the 1930s when the social credit movement had ideas around those lines. Two major basic income experiments have been conducted in Canada. Firstly the Mincome experiment in Manitoba 1974–1979, and secondly the Ontario Basic Income Pilot Project in 2017. The latter was intended to last for three years but only lasted a few months due to its subsequent cancellation by the then newly-elected Conservative government.

Universal basic income (UBI) is discussed in many countries. This article summarizes the national and regional debates, where it takes place, and is a complement to the main article on the subject: universal basic income.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pension policy in South Korea</span> Korean welfare

South Korea's pension scheme was introduced relatively recently, compared to other democratic nations. Half of the country's population aged 65 and over lives in relative poverty, or nearly four times the 13% average for member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This makes old age poverty an urgent social problem. Public social spending by general government is half the OECD average, and is the lowest as a percentage of GDP among OECD member countries.

In 2014, the Cyprus Guaranteed Minimum Income and Social Benefits Law was passed to replace the previous Public Assistance and Service Law. It covers all EU citizens and also long-term residents with legal status, and its main intention is to shelter those with higher risk of poverty and to guarantee the recipients with basic standard of living.

The Nyuntam Aay Yojana was a proposed social welfare programme by the Indian National Congress in its 2019 general election manifesto. It promised that the party, if voted to power in the 2019 Indian general election, would enact a law under which it would distribute cash to the bottom 20 per cent of India's families in terms of wealth, as a minimum guarantee programme. These households would each receive up to 72,000 (US$900) a year, a program the Congress claimed would benefit 250 million people in India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Family Assistance Plan</span> Welfare program

The Family Assistance Plan (FAP) was a welfare program introduced by President Richard Nixon in August 1969, which aimed to implement a negative income tax for households with working parents. The FAP was influenced by President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty program that aimed to expand welfare across all American citizens, especially for working-class Americans. Nixon intended for the FAP to replace existing welfare programs such as the Aid to Assist Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program as a way to attract conservative voters that were beginning to become wary of welfare while maintaining middle-class constituencies. The FAP specifically provided aid assistance to working-class Americans, dividing benefits based on age, the number of children, family income, and eligibility. Initially, the Nixon administration thought the FAP legislation would easily pass through the House of Representatives and the more liberal Senate, as both chambers were controlled by the Democratic Party. In June 1971, the FAP under the bill H.R. 1 during the 92nd Congress, passed in the House of Representatives. However, from December 1971 to June 1972 H.R.1 bill that included the FAP underwent scrutiny in the Senate chamber, particularly by the Senate Finance Committee controlled by the conservative Democrats, while the Republicans were also reluctant on passing the program. Eventually, on October 5 of 1972, a revised version of H.R.1 passed the Senate with a vote of 68-5 that only authorized funding for FAP testing before its implementation. During House-Senate reconciliation, before Nixon signed the bill on October 15, 1972 the entire provision on FAP was dropped. The FAP enjoyed broad support from Americans across different regions. Reception towards the program varied across racial, regional, income, and gender differences. The FAP is best remembered for beginning the rhetoric against the expansion of welfare that was popular during the New Deal. It initiated the support for anti-welfare conservative movements that became mainstream in American political discourse during the Reagan era.


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Further reading