Gyeonggi Province Introduces UBI program . . .
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has recently accelerated a UBI program initiated in South Korea’s Gyeonggi province. The UBI experiment began in 2019 when Lee Jae-myung, the province’s governor, introduced a province-wide youth basic income policy. The policy provides 24-year-olds – selected because many recent university graduates must take additional courses or unpaid internships to become competitive in the job market – with a quarterly stipend of C$277 in a local currency created for the program and accepted at various local businesses. As the pandemic has led to increased joblessness, Lee Jae-myung has provided regular cash transfers on top of federal government stimulus payments to boost the local economy. This marks South Korea’s first province-wide universal basic income program.
UBI in theory vs. practice . . .
UBI is a system of regular payments that provides every citizen with a living wage. Proponents argue that a universal living wage would reduce many societal ills and stimulate the economy. The program introduced in Gyeonggi-do differs from the economic theory behind UBI. It relies on the use of a local currency to be used only at local businesses, preventing residents from using the stipend to pay their rent or pay off loans. But the program has achieved part of the desired outcome of UBI, as local business owners claim they have gained more customers since its introduction.
UBI on the world stage . . .
Interest in UBI has been increasing in the past several years due to the automatization of many jobs that had previously provided work to a significant portion of the labour force. Countries like Finland, Iran, and Kenya have experimented with UBI, albeit with mixed results. As COVID-19 has exacerbated unemployment and governments have been forced to provide citizens and businesses with various stimulus payments, public support for UBI has grown. No country has introduced a nation-wide UBI program, but it seems that UBI may be one of the flagship policies of both South Korea’s Democratic Party and the conservative United Future Party in the 2022 presidential election. Although there are several obstacles to implementation at the national level, this may be a sign that UBI can become more than a fringe economic theory.
- Bloomberg: South Korea premier says universal basic income ‘impossible’
- The Diplomat: South Korea mulls universal basic income post-COVID
- Voice of America: In South Korea, universal basic income is having a pandemic moment