A representative survey found that 58% of Germans think that the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income is a sensible idea – with some reservations, depending on how the concept is presented. On average, people thought that a Basic Income of €1,137 a month was appropriate. With a Basic Income of €1,000 a month, 1 in 10 people currently working would choose not to work anymore.

The market research institute Splendid Research conducted a representative online survey of 1,024 people between the ages of 18 and 69 on the topic of an Unconditional Basic Income. Amongst other things, the survey aimed to find out how well known the concept is, what people in Germany think about the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income, what level they think is appropriate and whether they would carry on working with a Basic Income.

Two thirds of people in Germany were familiar with the term Unconditional Basic Income. After having read a definition, on average a majority of 58% of German citizens would be in favour of introducing a Basic Income. However, the survey showed how much influence context has in forming political opinion: if the definition mainly described benefits of the idea, 64% of German citizens were in favour, if however the definition mainly described negative aspects then only 46% were in favour.

The three different definitions used were the following:

  1. Where negative aspects predominate: “With an Unconditional Basic Income, every citizen receives a fixed amount of money from the state. This would replace various government benefits such as unemployment benefit, child benefit and housing benefit. Although there are some advantages, there are mostly drawbacks: some people would no longer work and companies will struggle to find workers for demanding careers.”
  2. Where positive aspects predominate: “With an Unconditional Basic Income, every citizen receives a fixed amount of money from the state. This would replace various government benefits such as unemployment benefit, child benefit and housing benefit. Although there are some drawbacks, there are mostly advantages: lots of bureaucracy would disappear which would cover a large proportion of the cost. At the same time unemployed people are better treated and are much more motivated to find a job that they will enjoy.”
  3. Where positive aspects predominate with case study provided from Finland: “A pilot study for an Unconditional Basic Income was started at the beginning of 2017. Unemployed people chosen at random, instead of receiving various benefits simply receive a monthly payment which they can choose to spend as they wish. The Unconditional Basic Income is paid even if the unemployed person isn’t actively looking for a job. If the person starts working they can earn an additional income without any tax being deducted from the Unconditional Basic Income. The results have been surprisingly positive. The Basic Income doesn’t make the people lazy or unambitious. On the contrary. The participants report that they have more desire to find a job and more time to pursue business ideas. Additionally, many participants have contacted the leader of the project to tell her that they are much less stressed than they used to be.”

The level of Basic Income considered appropriate by German citizens was on average €1,137 a month (this is almost exactly the at-risk-of-poverty threshold for Germany calculated by a number of German and European institutions). Here the respondents sense of social justice played a major role. People who thought that the world was generally socially just suggested a level of €1,093, whereas those who thought the world was less socially just thought €1,239 was appropriate.

The introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income would have drastic effects on the labour market. Depending on the level of Basic Income up to 38% of people working in Germany would change their career or their employer, reduce the number of hours worked or even choose not to work at all. Of those currently working who have a professional qualification, one quarter would consider giving up their career completely. Among academics however, only one fifth would consider not working at all. “This means that the introduction of a Basic Income could potentially exacerbate the current skills shortage of some professions in Germany.” according to study leader Nadine Corleis of Spelndid Research.

In general Germans think more highly of themselves than their fellow citizens: whereas nine percent of respondents said they themselves would not work anymore if they had a Basic Income of €1,000 a month, they thought on average 28% of others would choose not to work. Part time work and the gender pay gap also affect views on an Unconditional Basic Income, on average women would choose not to work with a Basic Income of €1,477, whereas men would need a Basic Income of €1,830 before they gave up work.

An Unconditional Basic Income could have a positive effect on community engagement in Germany. Nearly a third of German citizens, if they had support from the state, would consider moving to regions with lower rent prices and lower costs of living and work there voluntarily or start a business. “This could lead to growth in regions which in recent years have seen populations decline” Corleis goes on to explain.

Source: Netzwerk Grundeinkommen (Ronald Blaschke), translation by Derek Leach, photo: Jan Hagelstein/Flickr, CC-BY-2.0