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More Dutch Cities Want to Give Their Residents a Basic Income

Experiments to test a basic income system being proposed by Dutch city governments

It may be a good time to be Dutch. Yesterday, financial news service Financieele Dagblad reported that several more municipalities were considering joining in the footsteps of Utrecht, the city that wants to begin experimenting with giving every citizen free money.

Basic income is a policy that involves rolling social safety and welfare programs into one guaranteed income stream. The Swiss government has also considered it, and one Canadian town did it briefly for five years in the 70s.

Proposals for basic income always start out as experimental pilot programs confined to a small area, like the one in India from 2011. These experiments are necessary to work out the feasibility of the idea, as there is just very little precedent for giving every citizen cash payments without stipulations.

The Dutch basic income movement gained momentum with the announcement of Utrecht's experiment this June, and Financieele Dagblad claims that the city Tilburg has its own experimental proposal ready, with Groningen, Wageningen, Nijmegen, Enschede, and Maastricht considering proposals of their own. If the proposals are accepted by the Social Affairs Ministry, they'll be completely voluntary; Dutch citizens will have to opt-in.

According to reports, recipients will be divided into several experimental groups, some which come with work requirements and others without. As for right now, these experiments are still in the proposal stage. If they're put forth, and citizens sign up in great enough numbers, it will be the largest trove of data we'll get for a program like this.

The ongoing automation of the workforce, depending on who you ask, is either an imminent problem or a trend that's not happening fast enough. Some things are certain though: the nature of work is changing, and governments will soon have to reckon with how best to maintain standards of living for their citizens. As the country that works the second least amount of hours on average in the developed world, the Netherlands is no stranger to a strong work-life balance. The best way to keep your citizens happy may be the simplest, if not the easiest: just give them money.