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Broad support for generous but conditional basic income

Published: 19th April 2023 Last updated: 19th April 2023

There is reasonably broad support among Dutch voters for a basic income, according to new research by sociologists at Tilburg University. However, this must be subject to conditions. Most proponents favor a "participation income," available to everyone on the condition that a social task is performed, like volunteer work, informal care or an education. This participation income should then be higher than the current subsistence minimum. These desires are at odds with the current political proposals for an unconditional but basically low basic income.

A basic income for all is a much-discussed proposal for reforming the welfare state, which was mainly attributed to leftist-progressive politicians and voters. In practice, several political parties in the Netherlands, such as GroenLinks, D66, PvdA and PvdD, have already proposed their own variant of basic income, or are open to experimenting with a basic income.

This research shows that support among voters is broader and also comes from unexpected quarters: highly educated people are more in favor of a basic income than less educated people. At the same time, support does not appear to be higher among people from whom you would intuitively expect it, such as socially vulnerable groups and critics of the current welfare state.

Besides the usual political-ideological differences - left-wing voters are generally more in favor of a basic income than their right-wing counterparts - the researchers also found interesting common ground between the different party-electorates. With the main finding being that most voters, regardless of political color, prefer a participation income to a fully unconditional basic income and are strongly opposed to a basic income lower than the current subsistence minimum.

Tijs Laenen TSB

Researcher Tijs Laenen: "Basic income may have more chance of success politically than generally expected. After all, it is also supported by groups we know have an important influence on policy, such as highly educated voters. In this regard, the Dutch are quite generous, but also conditional in their solidarity. It will be searching for a type of basic income that can get a broad political coalition on its feet. Because the preference for a rather generous but conditional variant, is at odds with most political proposals, which come mainly from the progressive left and envision an unconditional and (to start with!) reasonably low basic income."