Spain Debates UBI-type Program Amid Covid-19
In a country facing “the worst economic crisis since the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939,” the ruling socialist government is turning to a basic income system to mitigate the economic crisis.
The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the debate in Spain over the introduction of a basic income, since state-funded social aid does not yet exist. It wasn’t until the death of the dictator Franco in 1975 that a welfare state developed here, though it was rather week. Families with children receive hardly any support.
The introduction of a basic income was therefore the main election promise of the leftist Podemos party and they made the program part of their coalition agreement with the Socialists last fall. Now the Sánchez government is rushing to get the project off the ground to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from plunging into the abyss.
“It is a historic moment for our democracy,” said Podemos leader and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, “the birth of a new social law.”
Spain, after all, still hasn’t fully recovered from the consequences of the financial and economic crisis of 2008. Even before the outbreak of the virus, the poverty rate hovered around 20 percent and the labor market is divided, with too few people enjoying permanent contracts with unemployment benefits, and too many having to make do with temporary contracts that often only last for a few days. According to statistics from the Spanish employment agency SEPE, 8.4 million people are now looking for a job.
Thus far, only regional governments have allocated aid money — paltry sums that reached only 75,000 people, or barely a third of all the poor, according to social researcher Flores. Basic income would provide financial security for the most vulnerable 850,000 households.
But an “ingreso mínimo vital,” literally a “minimum income to live,” comes with strings attached. The program would only apply to people between the ages of 23 and 65 and they must have been registered as living in Spain for at least one year without interruption. They must also be actively looking for a steady job, be involved in a continuing education program or, in cases of drug dependency, be enrolled in a therapy program. The social welfare office would look into applicants’ assets and existing income and that would be topped up to a level of 462 euros per month for singles and up to 1,015 euros per month for a family of five.