Theory and Hypotheses
Data and Operationalization
Analysis and Results
Conclusion and Discussion
This report explores to what extent different factors have an influence on the support for a basic income scheme in the European Union, focussing on Germany, Poland and Sweden. These factors focussed on in this report are a left/right scale on which respondents place themselves, whether respondents have enough money for household necessities and if the respondents are satisfied with the current state of the economy. As formulated in the hypotheses, it is expected that ‘more left’ people, people with not enough money, and people with a more negative perception of the economy’s state are more in favour of a basic income scheme.The last hypothesis compares the data of the three countries to see which country has the biggest effect on the support for a basic income scheme for the factor of enough money for household necessities. These relationships are explored via the use of SPSS and the data ofESS8 is provided by the University ofTwente. These relationships are tested via bivariate and multiple regression analyses in SPSS. Through this analysis, it was found that Germany and Sweden are in line with the formed hypotheses, whereas the analysis of Poland provided insignificant results for two hypotheses.
Key -words: Basic income scheme, welfarepreferences.poliUcal left-right scale, state ofeconomy, insufficient income, comparative study
What does the perfect society look like to you?
This is a question that has been discussed widely all across the educational spectrum - philosophers, political scientists, economists and law scientists are all equally interested in the answer.
Most people agree that a perfect society can never become reality, simply because there are too many obstacles and the perfect society looks different to everybody, but there are many people who have written abouttheir ‘utopia’.
Utopia is the word commonly associated with this perfect imaginary world (The British Library Board) and it - or its counterpart dystopia - has been written about often.
The term ‘utopia’ is based on the works of Sir Thomas More, who was the first person to write about his idea of a perfect society (The British Library Board). More’s ideal world was located on the island of Utopia, a small and comfortable community with 54 cities across the island. One of the main characteristics of society was that there was no poverty anywhere. More did not imagine a completely equal or communist society, but he did introduce the idea that a society as a whole was in a better shape, if every member was taken care for. He stipulated that the state should look after its citizens by providing a certain small sum of money for everybody to prevent theft among citizens (BIEN, n.d.).
With this stipulation More was the first person to talk about a basic income, even if he was not aware of this fact yet.
Knowing now that for the first Utopist Thomas More some form of a basic income was necessary for the ideal society, this report asks whether this is the case for people today as well.
Considering the idea of a basic income is today more relevant than ever.
The rapid technological change we are experiencing right now leads to an increasing demand for a universal basic income (Straubhaar, 2017). Due to constant enhancements in technologies and the development of artificial intelligence (Al) more and more workers are being substituted by robots; some even assume that most of the work done today will be taken over by robots in the future. Following this assumption, “jobs will be lost and it remains uncertain how many new jobs will be created to replace them” (Straubhaar, 2017).
Technological change leads to rising concerns about the future or even end of work.
But when there is no future of employment, is there a future for the welfare state? How will social benefits and social security systems survive, when there are no workers feeding into it by working, but only those in need of it?
Many are certain that traditional welfare systems cannot sustain the automation of human labor, even though those welfare systems will be needed more urgently than ever before. History has shown, that the implementation of new technologies always brings about “winners and losers and people, groups, communities, or countries often remain inside or outside the frontier” (Pelaez, 2014, p. 2). The big challenge is to support those left outside.
The answer to this challenge of many is the introduction of a universal basic income.
While the current attention towards a basic income is largely based on technological change and its implications on society, this report will not focus on the effect of this change.
It will, however, evaluate factors that might have an effect on the support of a basic income scheme and see how much of an effect these factors have in different settings.
The factors this report will take into account are the political opinion, where the opinion is measured as the position on the left-right-scale, the need for support from a possible basic income and the satisfaction with the state of the economy of the country of residence.
The extent to which these factors influence a support for a basic income scheme will be examined and evaluated in the following report.
This evaluation will be based on the data collected by the European Social Survey Round 8 (in the following denoted as ‘ESS8’).
It will be conducted in the context of three European countries: Germany, Sweden and Poland.
The study is guided by the following research question:
To what extent do thepoliticalposition on a left-right scale, the likelihood ofa lack ofmoneyfor household necessities and the satisfaction with the current state ofthe country’s economy affect the support ofan individualfor a basic income in Germany, Poland and Sweden?
The aim of this study is to answer this research question using the statistical analysis software ‘SPSS’.
2. Theory and Hypotheses
Although the main goal of this study is to understand the factors that might influence a support for a basic income scheme, first, a full apprehension of the basic income scheme is vital for then moving on to examine more thoroughly which factors logically could have an effect on the support of such.
The idea of a basic income has been around for centuries with mentions of it reaching back asfaras 1516 (BIEN, n.d.). The first modem definition of a basic income, however, was given by Bertrand Russell in 1918. According to him a basic income needed to be a certain sum of money given to all on a regular basis, regardless of their occupational status. This income was not supposed to be an enormous amount of money, but ratherjust enough to cover all necessities for living (Widerquist, Noguera, Vanderborght, & De Wispelaere, 2013). Even though this definition has been around for over a century now, it is relevant today in its understanding of the characteristics of a universal basic income.
Generally today, a basic income is thought of as a stream of regular income that is given to every citizen or resident within a certain political community (Widerquist, Noguera, Vanderborght, & De Wispelaere, 2013).
Its main characteristics are that it is given universally, unconditionally and individually (Widerquist, Noguera, Vanderborght, & De Wispelaere, 2013), whereas the universality refers to the fact that at least every citizen - sometimes even residents without citizenship living in that community - is entitled to it. The unconditionality explains that a basic income is not given only to those members of society in need of it - hereby meant are sick or disabled people unable to work themselves to finance their living, or those who have contributed to society by working to make themselves eligible for it. This aspect of a basic income scheme presents the biggest difference to current welfare systems, which are always based on the need for social benefits of the recipients.
The individuality aspect simply explains that this income should be distributed equally to every citizen, it is not paid per household or family.
These attributes are what makes a basic income revolutionary different from any existing welfare state models. Even the most comprehensive of welfare states does not include universal and unconditional benefits.
Even though basic income schemes present such a radical new idea they have been discussed as possible policies in many countries around the globe and have recently also been an issue of interest in the Democratic Primary Elections in the United States (Coelho, 2019).
Since it has been an issue of such broad discussion, it surely cannot only be radicals who support such a scheme. The question which factors might have an effect on the support of individuals for a basic income scheme remains.
First, one would expect the political opinion of a person to influence their support for a basic income scheme. While the idea of a basic income is supported by groups all across the political spectrum, we would expect those positioned more to the left on the political spectrum to be more supportive of a basic income scheme.
This relationship is anticipated due to the tendency of left-wing parties to make social security and the support of the individual a priority (Hague, Harrop, & McCormick, 2019).
While there is also an argument to be made that trade unions, as well as some social-democratic parties, namely left-oriented organizations, do not support a basic income scheme, due to its implications on the possible exploitation of workers by voluntarily unemployed (Widerquist, Noguera, Vanderborght, & De Wispelaere, 2013).
Since the analysis, however, is based on an individual level on which we would argue the advantages of a basic income scheme are greater for members of the working class, we still expect a positive relationship between how far to the left a person places on the left-right scale and their support for a basic income scheme.
From this a testable hypothesis can be derived, that states:
Thefurther left aperson’spolitical opinionsplace on the left right scale, the more they will support a basic income scheme.
Besides evaluating the effect of an individual’s political opinion on their support for a welfare state, this report will also calculate other factors in regard of a basic income scheme.
Next, the effect of the actual need of a basic income scheme on the support for one will be looked at. A positive relationship between need and support is expected. We assume here is that the more likely a person is to not have enough money for necessities, the more these persons will support a basic income scheme.
The reasoning for this assumption is rather obvious. Since a basic income scheme is supposed to protect people from destitution, it should help those who feel that they won’t have enough money for household necessities in the future. The basic income scheme would have the greatest influence on these people and it seems logical to assume that they, therefore, would appreciate it the most.
Hence, a second hypothesis denotes:
The more likely aperson is to not have enough moneyfor household necessities, the more they will support a basic income.
While the second hypothesis considers the economic implications on the individual, the matter of the economic implications on the state deserves specific attention.
One of the main questions in regard of a basic income scheme, is the problem of financing the scheme. The different possibilities of funding shall not be explored in this paper, however, we are going to take a look at the effect of the economic situation of the country on the individual’s support for the welfare state.
Whether a well-functioning economy actually in- or decreases the support on a basic income, is a debatable question.
On the one hand, it could be argued that with a better economic state the means for introducing a basic income are more easily achievable and, therefore, a prosperous economic state would increase the support for a basic income scheme.
However, there could certainly also be made a point of saying that with a good economy people are less in need of state’s support, and, therefore, support a basic income less. Following the same logic, one might suggest that in a tough economic climate there is a larger need for a basic income scheme to support all those unemployed and in low paying jobs.
For the purpose of this paper, it was decided that it is more plausible that a good economic climate with steady production and growth would probably lead to a decrease in support for a basic income scheme, as less people would be dependent on it and those profiting would not want to share the prosperity.
Hypothesis three, therefore, goes as following:
The better the state ofthe country’s economy, the lesspeople support a basic income scheme.
These hypotheses shall be evaluated in different settings, for which we chose three different countries: Sweden, Germany and Poland.
These countries were chosen, due to their different existing welfare systems.
Whereas Germany can be viewed as the conservative and more traditional welfare state. As it was one of the first countries to introduce welfare benefits as early as 1912 (Dietz, 2015) and while specific programs surely have changed in the last century, the main idea is that welfare benefits are linked to occupations and personal contributions (Hague, Harrop, & McCormick, 2019).
Besides the conservative German welfare state the more socialist approach in Sweden as well as Poland’s social benefit system that can hardly be considered an actual welfare state will be inspected and their influence on the support of citizens towards a basic income scheme shall be evaluated.
Sweden’s welfare capitalism, hereby, was selected because it presents a unique system among Western countries (Korpi, 1983). Its welfare state offers comprehensive benefits for citizens. Sweden is also especially interesting and known for its low Gini-coefficient of 0.282, which means that income is equally distributed among residents (OECD, 2015)
In this study we shall determine whether the existence of a well-functioning, far-reaching welfare state means that citizens support an even more advanced version more or if the content with the current system means less support for new regulations.
The Polish welfare state on the other hand offers an interesting comparison, due to its lack of functioning. While Poland does spend a significant amount of their GDP capita on social expenditure, which is a little lower than the EU average, but in line with the Central and Eastern Europe average (Sawulski, 2017), its main welfare state activities are usually carried out by either local institutions or non-state actors. Especially the influence on the Catholic church should not be underestimated (Schulz, 2008).
While the effects of nationality are only underlyingly taken into account in the process of answering hypotheses one through three, in one final hypothesis this influence shall be considered in depth.