Basic income earth network (BIEN)

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Description of what the network is about

Founded in 1986, the Basic Income European Network (BIEN) was established to serve as a link between all individuals and groups interested in Basic Income (that is, a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement) and to foster informed discussion on this topic throughout the world. In 2006, BIEN became the Basic Income Earth Network. Members of BIEN include academics, students and social policy practitioners as well as people actively engaged in political, social and religious organisations. They vary in terms of disciplinary backgrounds, political affiliations, age, and nationality. BIEN is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission in the United Kingdom: registered charity number 1177066.

Societal problem they want to address

Because someone’s Basic Income would never be taken away, it would

  • provide a secure financial platform to build on
  • enable the employment market to become more flexible at the same time as enhancing income security
  • give to everyone more choices over the number of hours for which they were employed • enable carers to balance their caring and other responsibilities
  • make it easier to start new businesses or to go self-employed, and
  • encourage personal freedom, creativity, and voluntary activity

Because everyone would get a Basic Income, it would

  • create social cohesion, and
  • carry no stigma

Because the Basic Income would never be withdrawn, it would

  • reduce the poverty trap for low income families, enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty by seeking new skills, better jobs, or additional hours of employment
  • reduce the unemployment trap, so getting a job would always mean additional disposable income Because Basic Income would be simple and efficient, it would
  • be easy to understand
  • be cheap to administer and easy to automate
  • not be prone to errors or fraud

Many current benefits system are no longer fit for purpose. They assume that everyone has a stable single employment, that household structures don’t change, and that individuals’ circumstances change very rarely. Our lives are no longer like that: and as technology and the employment market continue to change, our benefits systems will become even less appropriate. In a context of rapid change, the only useful system is a simple one. A Basic Income is as simple as it gets.

Societal domain


Basic aim of network

The mission of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) is to offer education to the wider public about alternative arguments about, proposals for, and problems concerning, basic income as idea, institution, and public policy practice.

Here are the 5 Characteristics of Basic Income

  • 1. Periodic — It is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  • 2. Cash payment — It is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  • 3. Individual—It is paid on an individual basis — and not, for instance, to households.
  • 4. Universal—It is paid to all, without means test.
  • 5. Unconditional — It is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work. A wide variety of Basic Income proposals are circulating today. They differ along many other dimensions, for instance, the amounts of the Basic Income, the source of funding, the nature and size of reductions in other transfers that might accompany it, and so on. A longer commentary on the definition can be found [here].


BIEN organises public conferences around the world on an annual basis, promotes research, serves as a research repository, and publishes news, research, and opinion articles. BIEN is associated with an academic journal, Basic Income Studies.

For more information

BIEN web page

Recently published introductions to the subject

Louise Haagh, The Case for Universal Basic Income, Polity, 2019

Annie Miller, A Basic Income Handbook, Luath Press, 2017

Guy Standing, Basic Income: And how we can make it happen, Penguin, 2017

Malcolm Torry, Why we need a Citizen’s Basic Income: The desirability, feasibility and implementation of an unconditional income, Policy Press, 2018

For a detailed treatment of feasibility, see

Malcolm Torry, The Feasibility of Citizen’s Income, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016

For chapters on many aspects of the Basic Income debate by world experts, see

The Palgrave International Handbook of Basic Income, Palgrave, 2019

Entry done by

Aleksi Salmela