The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials

The idea of universal basic income is quickly gaining popularity as some of the latest trials conducted are showing great promise.
Saoirse Kerrigan

With the advent of automation, many people are understandably concerned about the future of their work. To survive the revolution of automated labor, we'll have to drastically adapt elements of our society and economy.

One proposed solution which has been gaining serious traction in recent years is the concept of a universal basic income. This would guarantee that every citizen, regardless of their independent wealth or current occupational status, would receive a base amount of money from the government, either annually or monthly.

It might sound too good to be true, but universal basic income has already been trialed all over the world, with some pretty fascinating results. Here are some of the most promising trials and projects that put the theory into practice.

1. Y Combinator: Leading Basic Income Research in America

Silicon Valley start-up accelerator, Y Combinator, is working to provide the first set of comprehensive basic income research data in the United States. They first announced their intentions in 2016, and have since completed a pilot of their study in Oakland, California.

Y Combinator's next move is to provide basic income to a study group of 3,000 people. One-third of the group will receive $1,000 a month for five years, while the remaining two-thirds will receive just $50 a month over the course of the study.

They hope to learn how people's use of free time changes with the introduction of a financial safety net, as well as any potential affects the money will have on their physical and mental health, crime rates, and overall well-being.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Basil D Soufi/Wikimedia Commons

2. The Ontario Basic Income Pilot: Improving Everyone's Standard of Living

In April of this year, the Ontario government officially concluded the first phase of enrollment for a 3-year basic income pilot. The enrollment saw 4,000 citizens become registered for a basic income, with a control group of 2,000 people as comparison. The pilot is taking place in the towns of Hamilton, Lindsay, and Thunder Bay.

As part of the pilot, each single person will receive an annual sum of $16,989, or less than 50% of their employment income if applicable. Couples will receive an annual sum of $24,027 or less than 50% of their employment income.

Some of the key areas of interest for the study are food security, employment participation, education, housing security, and overall effect on health. All of the data will be gathered and measured by a third party.

Due to the popularity of the concept in Ontario, British Columbia is now also considering a basic income pilot of their own.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Lemon Loco Designs

3. The Madhya Pradesh Basic Income Pilot: Bringing People Out of Poverty

Between 2011 and 2013, a UNICEF-backed pilot saw 6,000 people in the villages of Madhya Pradesh, India avail of basic income. The study was led by sociologist Sarath Davala and Guy Standing. 

UNICEF provided the equivalent of $1 million to the pilot, and Davala and Standing gave the local government regular updates on the success of the pilot every three months.

Their research showed that the vast majority of those who took part in the study used the additional income to invest in other income-generating opportunities, like livestock.

The money also allowed children to pursue their education, instead of working to help make ends meet at home. The overall indication of the pilot, was that it could give people the ability to bring themselves out of poverty, and raise a healthier, better-educated populace.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Nagarjun Kandukuru/Wikimedia Commons

4. Livorno's Basic Income: Helping the City's Poorest Families

In 2016, the Italian coastal city of Livorno introduced a basic income pilot that saw the city's 100 poorest families receive €500 a month. In January of 2017, they expanded the pilot to include a further 100 families.

The pilot marked an important experiment for Italy, whose unemployment rate of 11% is causing many to turn to universal basic incomes as a potential economic solution. Unlike other pilots, however, Livorno's grants are conditional. Recipients must complete community service and provide proof that they are actively seeking employment if they are currently unemployed. If they reject a total of three job offers, they are disqualified from the scheme.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Luca Aless/Wikimedia Commons

5. GiveDirectly: Funding Kenyan Families Directly

GiveDirectly is one of the most ambitious universal basic income trials currently being conducted. The trial will see 21,000 people in rural Kenya receive different amounts of money, for different durations, over the course of a 12-year experiment.

As part of the trial, 40 villages will see citizens receive $0.75 a day for 12 years. 80 villages will see citizens receive the same amount, but over a 2 year period. 70 villages will see citizens receive the amount as a one-time-only lump sum. A further 100 villages are being studied as a control group.

GiveDirectly differs from other schemes in that anyone can donate towards the fund, allowing it to then be distributed among the test groups.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: CDC Global/Flickr

6. Weten Wat Werkt: Experimenting With Welfare in the Netherlands

In 2016, the city of Utrecht proposed a basic universal income trial entitled "Weten Wat Werkt", which translates as "Know What Works". The proposed trial consisted of a two year period, which would divide 250 citizens into test groups.

Each test group receives different amounts under different conditions. One group, for example, receives a total of €960 monthly with no additional conditions. Another group will receive €150 on top of the original amount if they engage in community service or do volunteer work.

The pilot is an attempt to restructure the welfare system in the Netherlands, which is currently criticized for costing too much annually. 

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: David Iliff/Wikimedia Commons

7. Scotland's Basic Income Schemes: Bringing Basic Income to Multiple Districts

In December of last year, the Scottish government proposed pilot universal income schemes to take place in multiple areas across the country. The areas where basic income will be trialed are Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire.

The scheme has been granted £250,000 by the Scottish government, and has so far been a controversial subject. People on both sides of the political divide have taken issue with the proposal, with many voicing concerns over the future of trade union bargaining power, and others fearing that it marks an extreme left political turn in Scotland.

Proponents of the pilot remain undeterred, and believe that it could positively address the high levels of unemployment and poverty in the country.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Flyfishinghut/Pixabay

8. Hawaii's Proposed Basic Income Project: Becoming the First US State to Support UBI

June 2017 saw Hawaii pass a bill that advocates for the development of universal basic income for its citizens. The landmark decision made it the first state to officially support the concept.

The bill was drafted in direct response to automation, and fears over the future of labor in Hawaii.

Though no plans have yet been put in place to introduce a basic income pilot, the bill states that Hawaiian citizens have a right to basic income, and the government is committing to researching how to best make this a reality.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: dronepicr/Wikimedia Commons

9. B-MINCOME: Tackling Poverty in Barcelona

Taking its name from a 1970s basic income pilot in Manitoba, Canada, B-MINCOME is a project running in Barcelona from 2017 until 2020.

The project has been developed by four specialist organizations, including the Institute of Government and Public Policy at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. The project is focused on the 10 neighborhoods most affected by poverty and unemployment in the city. Funding for the project was provided by the European Commission, as part of their Urban Innovative Action programme.

The project seeks to address the ever-increasing wealth gap in the city, and to better understand the ethnographic trends of poverty in Barcelona.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Nikitina Ludmilla/Wikimedia Commons

10. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration: Pulling Citizens Out of Poverty

Just this year, Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California announced his intentions to implement a basic income pilot for his citizens. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, will see residents receive an unconditional stipend of $500 a month.

The pilot is slated to begin in 2019, and will run for 18 months. Though it is still undecided how many residents will be included in the trial, funding has already been secured from the Economic Security Project. The Economic Security Project is co-chaired by Facebook co-founder, Chris Hughes, who has become a vocal advocate for universal basic income in recent years. The Project has committed to providing Stockton with $1 million for the pilot.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Sharon Hahn Darlin/Flickr

11. The Finnish Basic Income Trials: Encouraging the World to Test Basic Income

One of the most talked-about basic income trials of recent years have been Finland's efforts in implementing universal basic income. The trial is set to conclude at the end of this year, and the Finnish government have recently declared that they will not be extending the trial as previously suggested.

Though many took this as a sign of the trial's failure, that might not necessarily be the case. The Finnish government has noted that they wish to review the data gathered from the past two years before making any further commitments to extending and expanding universal basic income in the country. While this means it will be some time before we can say with any certainty that the trial was a success, it certainly helped in providing an example for other nations interested in pursuing UBI.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Skitterphoto/Pixabay

12. Macau's Wealth Partaking Scheme: Building On Previous Efforts

Since 2008, the government of Macau has been sharing a state bonus with its citizens. Over the past decade, the scheme has developed, and in 2017 the Macau Special Administrative Region announced their Wealth Partaking Scheme.

The Wealth Partaking Scheme provides an entitlement of $1,128 annually to permanent residents, and $672 annually to non-permanent residents. The entitlement is available to all citizens, regardless of age, with citizens under 18 given the option of receiving a cheque in their name or the name of their parents.

Though it is a relatively small universal basic income, it is unconditional and will provide valuable data in the coming years for future UBI efforts.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: kewl/Wikimedia Commons

13. The Rheinau Experiment: Creating an Economic and Cinematic Experiment

The small town in Rheinau in Switzerland is something of an anomaly when it comes to basic income efforts. Rather than having an official scheme put in place by local or national governments, the town is the subject of a documentary which will provide its citizens with a basic income and document the effects.

The film is the brainchild of Rebecca Panian, an independent film-maker who wishes to provoke interest in the concept of basic income with her work.

If the project goes ahead as planned, it will run for the course of one year and provide citizens with a maximum of 2500 Swiss francs a month. The stipend is conditional, with varying rates based on age, and those who earn over 2500 Swiss francs monthly through employment are required to refund the stipend.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons

14. The Alaska Permanent Fund: Providing Convincing Data 

The Alaska Permanent Fund has been in operation since 1982, and provides some of the most comprehensive data on universal basic income available. The fund is made possible thanks to Alaska's oil revenues, and provides an annual stipend to all state citizens.

Due to the fluctuation of oil prices, the amount given to citizens is subject to change each year.

While one of the main concerns regarding universal basic income is that it might discourage citizens from finding work, data gathered from the Alaska Permanent Fund has found that the stipend has had no effect on employment. 

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: ClickClick5/Wikipedia

15. The Eight Fort Portal Project: Filming the Progress of a UBI Project

Another universal basic income project slated to become the subject of a documentary is that of Eight's efforts in Uganda.


Eight is a Belgium-based charitable organization, who launched a 2-year basic income trial in rural Uganda last year.

Eight is working in an undisclosed village in rural Uganda, providing an unconditional stipend of $18.52 monthly for adults, and $9.13 monthly for children. The amounts were chosen as they represent 30% of the average income for lower-income families in Uganda.

The key areas of study for the project are the education of women and girls, health care, local economic development, and participation in democratic institutions.

The 15 Most Promising Universal Basic Income Trials
Source: Manuel Werner/Wikipedia
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