Preparations for extensive Basic Income experiments in France

"And suddenly it was something feasible!"

2 May, 2018 | Interview by Madlen Seidel

In 2019, there could be an extensive basic income experiment in France. Denise Greslard-Nédélec tells us why it requires a special law and what remains to be done.

Some politicians in France are eager to test basic income in a series of experiments. What exactly is happening at the moment?

Denise Greslard-Nédélec: We have realised that we need a new solidarity model in France, since the current social benefits system has run out of possibilities to diminish poverty in our country. Back in 2009, the French government implemented a new system in order to guarantee unemployed people a minimum level of financial support and help them back into employment. But as it turned out, it has not really contributed to diminishing poverty. The money is barely enough for people to live properly and many of them feel stigmatised by it. Furthermore, the application process is overly complicated and discourages lots of people who are actually entitled to the money. We are in desperate need of a new model.

In France, the distribution of social benefits and the care of people in precarious situations are in the hands of the departments. In the department Gironde, where I am in charge of the politics of social integration, we started to seek out alternative options and eventually picked up the idea of basic income. The concept of replacing current social benefit systems with a basic income is not in any way new, but in fact widely talked about in France as well as in other places. While exploring the topic, we realised we could actually become pioneers of this social innovation by testing it in an experiment. Suddenly it was no longer a distant theory, but something potentially feasible. Other departments became interested in what we were doing and eventually joined us. At the moment, we are 13 departments working on this project. We recently started an online survey to see how people engage with the idea and which models they prefer. We think it is important for people to take matters into their own hands and help shape the vision. After all, this project belongs to us all.

What’s next?

Denise Greslard-Nédélec: We would like to start experimenting one of the basic income models in January 2019. However, from a legal perspective, we need a special law to do so. This is why we are preparing a legislative proposal for this summer that would enable us to use parts of the current social benefits funds for our basic income experiment. This autumn, we will see if we have the government's support. If this is the case, the French parliament is gonna take a vote.

When will we see the implementation of basic income in France?

Denise Greslard-Nédélec: We see already that the basic income movement is gaining ground. The French government and the departments are watching it very closely. As for this autumn, it is crucial that the parliament give their go-ahead for the experiment to start. That would be a milestone for France and an important signal for Europe. But in the end, it all comes down to the results of our experiment, if we want to implement basic income on a larger scale. Should they turn out to be as promising as we hope them to be, all we need is a government bold enough to act accordingly.

Thank you very much for the interview, Denise! Talk to you soon with more news!

updated on 03 Jun 2018, 20:13