Guaranteed minimum income

Doi (identifier) Basic income ISSN (identifier)
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Guaranteed minimum income (GMI), also called minimum income,[1] is a social-welfare system that guarantees all citizens or families an income sufficient to live on, provided that certain eligibility conditions are met, typically: citizenship; a means test; and either availability to participate in the labor market, or willingness to perform community services.

The primary goal of a guaranteed minimum income is reduction of poverty. In circumstances when citizenship is the sole qualification, the program becomes a universal basic income system.


A system of guaranteed minimum income can consist of several elements, most notably:

Differences from basic income

Basic income means the provision of identical payments from a government to all of its citizens. Guaranteed minimum income is a system of payments (possibly only one) by a government to citizens who fail to meet one or more means tests. While most modern countries have some form of GMI, a basic income is rare.


Persian monarch Cyrus the Great ( ca 590-ca 529 B.C.), whose government used a regulated minimum wage, also provided special rations to families when a child was born.[4]

The Roman Republic and Empire offered the Cura Annonae, a regular distribution of free or subsidized grain or bread to poorer residents. The grain subsidy was first introduced by Gaius Gracchus in 123 B.C., then further institutionalized by Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar.[5][6]

The first Sunni Muslim Caliph Abu Bakr, who came to power in 632 C.E., introduced a guaranteed minimum standard of income, granting each man, woman and child ten dirhams annually. This was later increased to twenty dirhams.[7]

In 1795, American revolutionary Thomas Paine advocated a citizen's dividend to all United States citizens as compensation for "loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property" (Agrarian Justice, 1795).

French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte echoed Paine's sentiments and commented that 'man is entitled by birthright to a share of the Earth's produce sufficient to fill the needs of his existence' (Herold, 1955).

The American economist Henry George advocated for a dividend paid to all citizens from the revenue generated by a land value tax.[8]

In 1963, Robert Theobald published the book Free Men and Free Markets, in which he advocated a guaranteed minimum income (the origin of the modern version of the phrase).

In 1966, the Cloward–Piven strategy advocated "overloading" the US welfare system to force its collapse in the hopes that it would be replaced by "a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty".

In his final book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), Martin Luther King Jr. wrote[9]

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

— from the chapter titled "Where We Are Going"

In 1968, James Tobin, Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth Galbraith and another 1,200 economists signed a document calling for the US Congress to introduce in that year a system of income guarantees and supplements.[10]

In 1969, President Richard Nixon's Family Assistance Plan would have paid a minimum income to poor families. The proposal by Nixon passed in the House but never made it out of committee in the Senate.[citation needed]

In 1973, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote The Politics of a Guaranteed Income, in which he advocated the guaranteed minimum income and discussed Richard Nixon's Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) proposal.[11]

In 1987, New Zealand's Labour Finance Minister Roger Douglas announced a Guaranteed Minimum Family Income Scheme to accompany a new flat tax. Both were quashed by then Prime Minister David Lange, who sacked Douglas.[12]

In his 1994 "autobiographical dialog", classical liberal Friedrich Hayek stated: "I have always said that I am in favor of a minimum income for every person in the country".[13]

In 2013, the Equal Life Foundation published the Living Income Guaranteed Proposal,[14] illustrating a practical way to implement and fund a minimum guaranteed income.[15]

In 2017, Harry A. Shamir (US) published the book Consumerism, or Capitalism Without Crises, in which the concept was promoted by another label, as a way to enable our civilization to survive in an era of automation and computerization and large scale unemployment. The book also innovates a method to fund the process, tapping into the underground economy and volunteerism.

Other modern advocates include Hans-Werner Sinn (Germany), Ayşe Buğra (Turkey), The Green Economics Institute (GEI),[16] and Andrew Coyne (Canada).[17]


Tax revenues would fund the majority of GMI proposals. As most GMI proposals seek to create an earnings floor close to or above poverty lines amongst all citizens, the fiscal burden would require equally broad tax sources, such as income taxes or VATs. To varying degrees, a GMI might be funded through the reduction or elimination of other social security programs, such as unemployment insurance.

Another approach for funding is to acknowledge that all modern economies use fiat money and thus taxation is not necessary for funding. However, the fact that there are no financial constraints does not mean other constraints, such as on real resources, do not exist. A likely outcome based on the economic theory known as Modern Monetary Theory would be a moderate increase in taxation to ensure the extra income would not cause demand-pull inflation. This hypothetical Chartalist approach can be seen in the implementation of quantitative easing programs where, in the United States, over three trillion dollars[18][19] were created without requiring taxes.

Examples around the world


In July 2013, the Cypriot government unveiled a plan to reform the welfare system in Cyprus and create a 'Guaranteed Minimum Income' for all citizens.[20]


In 1988, France was one of the first countries to implement a minimum income, called the Revenu minimum d'insertion. In 2009, it was turned into Revenu de solidarité active (RSA), a new system that aimed to solve the poverty trap by providing low-wage workers a complementary income to encourage activity.

United States

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933[21]

The United States has multiple social programs that provide guaranteed minimum incomes for individuals meeting certain criteria such as assets or disability. For instance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. SSI was created in 1974 to replace federal-state adult assistance programs that served the same purpose. Today the program provides benefits to approximately eight million Americans. Another such program is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD or SSDI), a payroll tax-funded, federal insurance program. It is managed by the Social Security Administration and is designed to provide income supplements to people who are restricted in their ability to work because of a disability, usually a physical disability. SSD can be supplied on either a temporary or permanent basis, usually directly correlated to whether the person's disability is temporary or permanent.

An early guaranteed minimum income program in the U.S. was the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), established by the Social Security Act. Where previously the responsibility to assist needy children lay in the hands of the states, AFDC transferred that authority to the federal government.[22] Over time, the AFDC was often criticized for creating disincentives to work, leading to many arguing for its replacement. In the 1970s, President Richard M. Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Program (FAP), which would replace the AFDC. FAP was intended to fix many of the problems of the AFDC, particularly the anti-work structure. Presidential nominee George McGovern also proposed a minimum income—in the form of a Universal Tax Credit. Ultimately, neither of these programs were implemented. Throughout the decade, many other experimental minimum income programs were carried out in cities throughout the country, such as the Seattle-Denver Income Maintenance Experiments.[23] In 1996, under President Bill Clinton, the AFDC was replaced with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. This would block grant funds to the states to allow them to decide how aid would be distributed.[22]

Another guaranteed minimum income program in the U.S. is the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is a refundable tax credit that gives poorer families cash assistance every year. The EITC avoids the welfare trap by subsidizing income, rather than replacing it.[24]


Minimum income has been increasingly accepted by the Brazilian government. In 2004, President Lula da Silva signed into law a bill to establish a universal basic income.[25] This law is primarily implemented through the Bolsa Família program. Under this program, poorer families receive a direct cash payment via a government issued debit card. Bolsa Família is a conditional cash transfer program, meaning that beneficiaries receive their aid if they accomplish certain actions. Families who receive the aid must put their children in school and participate in vaccination programs. If they do not meet these requirements, they are cut off from aid.[26] The program has been criticised as vote-buying, trading productive individuals' earning for the votes of welfare recipients[27] As of 2011, approximately 50 million people, or a quarter of Brazil's population, were participating in Bolsa Família.[28]


Canada has experimented with minimum income trials. During the Mincome experiment in Manitoba in the 1970s, Mincome provided lower-income families with cash transfers to keep them out of poverty.[29] The program resulted in shuttering of the program due to budget shortfalls or a change in government. The province of Ontario began a minimum income experiment in 2017. Approximately 4000 citizens began to receive a stipend based on their family situation and income.[30] Recipients of this program could receive upwards of $10,000 per year. Government researchers used this pilot as a way of testing to see if a minimum income can help people meet their basic needs.[31] On August 31, 2018, following a change in government, incoming Premier Doug Ford announced that the pilot would be cancelled at the end of the current fiscal year.


China's Minimum Livelihood Guarantee, also called dibao, is a means-tested social assistance scheme introduced in 1993 and expanded to all Chinese cities in 1999.[32][33][34]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has a Citizen’s Account Program which provides a basic income to registered citizens.[citation needed] In December 2017, immediately before the program began, more than 3.7 million households had registered, representing 13 million people, or more than half the population.[35]as of 2013, between one fifth and one third of Saudi residents are estimated to be non-citizens.[36][37][38][needs update]


In Spain, the ingreso mínimo vital is an economic benefit guaranteed by the Social security in Spain in its modality no contributory. The IMV is defined as a "subjective right" and is intended to prevent poverty and social exclusion of people who live alone or integrated into a coexistence unit when they are in a situation of vulnerability due to lack of sufficient financial resources to cover their basic needs. [39] The benefit, which is not fixed and varies depending on various factors, ranges between 462 and 1015 euros per month, is expected to cover 850,000 households (approximately 2.5 million people) and will cost the government 3 billion euros per year.[39][40]

Other countries

See also


  1. ^ History of Basic Income, Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), retrieved on 18 June 2009
  2. ^ Deeming, Christopher (2017). "Defining Minimum Income (and Living) Standards in Europe: Methodological Issues and Policy Debates". Social Policy and Society. 16 (1): 33–48. doi:10.1017/S147474641500041X. ISSN 1474-7464.
  3. ^ Deeming, Christopher (2019). Minimum Income Standards and Reference Budgets: International and Comparative Policy Perspectives. Bristol: Policy Press. ISBN 978-1447352952.
  4. ^ Koch, Heidemarie. (1996). Es kündet Dareios der König ... : vom Leben im persischen Grossreich (2. Aufl., Sonderausg ed.). Mainz/Rhein: Von Zabern. ISBN 3-8053-1934-7. OCLC 75784091.
  5. ^ Erdkamp, Paul, "The Food Supply of the Capital," in The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 262-264
  6. ^
  7. ^ Grace Clark: Pakistan's Zakat and 'Ushr as a Welfare System
  8. ^ George, Henry (1871). Our Land and Land Policy, National and State. White & Bauer [etc.] p. 230. ISBN 9781230444703.
  9. ^ Martin Luther King jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967)
  10. ^ Economists' Statement on Guaranteed Annual Income, 1/15/1968-4/18/1969 folder, General Correspondence Series, Papers of John Kenneth Galbraith, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Cited in: Jyotsna Sreenivasan, "Poverty and the Government in America: A Historical Encyclopedia." (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2009), page 269
  11. ^ "Richard Nixon: Address to the Nation on Domestic Programs".
  12. ^ "New Zealand Is Jolted By a Speedy Decontrol", Seth Mydans, The New York Times (24 February 1988)
  13. ^ Hayek on Hayek: An Autobiographical Dialogue by F. A. Hayek, edited by Stephen Kresge and Leif Wenar (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994)
  14. ^ "The Living Income Guaranteed Proposal".
  15. ^ "The Living Income Guaranteed Proposal". Living Income Guaranteed.
  16. ^ "Green Economics". GEI. Archived from the original on 2009-09-01. Retrieved 2020-01-04.
  17. ^ "A minimum income, not wage, is a fairer way to distribute wealth" The Financial Post (8 April 2013)
  18. ^ Fredgraph
  19. ^ wonkmonk (12 May 2012). "Ben Bernanke: As a Literal Fact the Fed is not Printing Money" – via YouTube.
  20. ^ "President announces 'Guaranteed Minimum Income' for all citizens". Cyprus Mail. 26 July 2013.
  21. ^ Tritch, Teresa (March 7, 2014). "F.D.R. Makes the Case for the Minimum Wage". New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
  22. ^ a b Lurie, Irene (1997-01-01). "Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: A Green Light for the States". Publius: The Journal of Federalism. 27 (2): 73–87. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.pubjof.a029915. ISSN 0048-5950.
  23. ^ Larson, David (January 1, 1992). "Long Overdue: The Single Guaranteed Minimum Income Program". University of Detroit Mercy Law Review. 69: 353.
  24. ^ Zelleke, Almaz (December 2005). "Basic Income in the United States: Redefining Citizenship in the Liberal State". Review of Social Economy. 63 (4): 633–648. doi:10.1080/00346760500364866. S2CID 144251010.
  25. ^ Wispelaere, Jurgen De (October 2016). "Basic Income in Our Time: Improving Political Prospects Through Policy Learning?". Journal of Social Policy. 45 (4): 617–634. doi:10.1017/s0047279416000039. ISSN 0047-2794.
  26. ^ "Happy families". The Economist. 2008-02-07. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  27. ^ Hunter, WENDY (2013). ""Whither Clientelism? Good Governance and Brazil's Bolsa Família Program." Comparative Politics Vol. 46, no 1 (October): 43-62". Comparative Politics. 46 (1): 43–62. doi:10.5129/001041513807709365. JSTOR 43664332.
  28. ^ "Overview". World Bank. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  29. ^ "A guaranteed annual income? From moncome to millennium". Policy Options. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  30. ^ Petroff, Alanna. "Canada: Ontario launches guaranteed income program for 4,000 residents". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  31. ^ "Ontario Basic Income Pilot". Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  32. ^ Solinger, Dorothy J. (2017). "Manipulating China's "Minimum Livelihood Guarantee": Political Shifts in a Program for the Poor in the Period of Xi Jinping". China Perspectives. Open Edition. 2017/2.
  33. ^ Wang, Jinxian; Bai, Yanfeng (2016). "Development of minimum livelihood guarantee programmes in urban China: an empirical analysis based on 31 regions over 2003–2013". China Journal of Social Work. 9 (2): 155–177. doi:10.1080/17525098.2016.1231256.
  34. ^ Qian, Jiwei (2014). "Anti-Poverty in China: Minimum Livelihood Guarantee Scheme". East Asian Policy. 05.
  35. ^ Nereim, Vivian; Carey, Glen (2017-12-12). "Saudi Arabia Will Give Cash to Poorer Citizens Hit by Austerity". Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  36. ^ "Saudi Arabia". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
  37. ^ The Economist magazine lists an estimated nine million: "Go home, but who will replace you?". The Economist. 16 November 2013. out of a population of 30 million: "Saudi Arabia No satisfaction". The Economist. 1 February 2014.
  38. ^ جريدة الرياض. "جريدة الرياض : سكان المملكة 27 مليوناً بينهم 8 ملايين مقيم".
  39. ^ a b Ng, Kate (2020-05-01). "Spain approves national minimum income scheme". The Independent. Retrieved 2020-09-04. Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias told a news conference on Friday the creation of a minimum income worth €462 (£416.92) a month will target some 850,000 households or 2.5 million people. The government would pay the monthly stipend and top up existing revenue for people earning less so that they receive at least that minimum amount every month, he said. The minimum income would increase with the number of family members, up to a maximum of €1,015 (£916.30) each month. The programme would cost the government about €3 billion a year.
  40. ^ "Escrivá anuncia que el ingreso mínimo vital sacará de la pobreza extrema a 1,6 millones de personas". ELMUNDO. May 29, 2020. Retrieved June 6, 2020.
  41. ^ "Venit minim garantat". May 2020.