High in the hilltops of the Himalayas, one of the most ambitious experiments in human history is about to begin. Sikkim, one of the smallest states in India and its ruling party has announced a plan where all 610,577 of its citizens will receive a universal basic income.
If successful would become the largest trial of its kind anywhere in the world. The idea around universal basic income has gained a lot of support in intellectual circles but thus far has not been implemented on a wide scale such as this. Countries that have trialled it so far include Finland where until recently a $630 monthly payment to 2,000 unemployed citizens was piloted over two years and in Ontario, Canada where the trial was abruptly discontinued after complaints of unnecessary costs.
Universal basic income is essentially a guaranteed unconditional cash payment regardless of your status or representation. It replaces the complex web of the benefits system and allows the recipient to make 100% of the spending decisions when rewarded with the money.
Sikkim is kind of an incredible place, highly progressive inside a country plagued by systemic corruption and stagnating lower socio-economic problems. It was the first state in India to introduce a plastic bag ban successfully, it was the first to introduce universal housing for all its citizens and also the first to introduce a ban on fertilizers and pesticides. Sikkim natives are 98% literate and just 8% live below the poverty line contrasted to a national average of 30%. Clean energy and tourism are said to be the main financial support lines for absorbing these proposed UBI costs.
Tech moguls like Marck Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and even social business entrepreneur Mohamad Yunus have backed the idea of universal basic income calling for a new social contract to arise. They cite the ongoing risks around automation and the reimagining of the labour market as their main reasons. Critics say of the Sikkim experiment that it would “disincentivize work and raise the possibility of a shrinking labour force and a misuse of funds.”
The scheme is to be rolled out completely by 2022, but the finer details as in exact payments are still to be finetuned. We’re keen to see the results.