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Alicia Bárcena Underscored Potential of Universal, Unconditional Basic Income for Young People in the Region

27 November 2017|News

ECLAC’s Executive Secretary presented the book “Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free society and a Sane Economy,” by Philippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, at the Guadalajara International Book Fair.


photo of the launch of the book
Photo: CEPAL.

Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), analyzed on Monday 27 November the potential benefits that a universal and unconditional basic income could have on the 145 million young people in the region, during her presentation of the book Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy, by authors Phillippe Van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght, published by Grano de Sal.

According to Bárcena, this could be “a redistributive, intergenerational and emancipating instrument” for young people in the region, that could allow them not only to start their productive life with a baseline of security and minimum but adequate certainty, but also to acquire new skills and develop bold, innovative social change initiatives.

“One of the virtues of Van Parijs and Vanderborght’s book is precisely that it sees basic income not only as a powerful tool to combat poverty, inequality and material instability, but also as an instrument of emancipation,” emphasized ECLAC’s senior representative at the event held during the 31st Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) going on November 25 – December 3, 2017.

In addition to Van Parijs and Bárcena, the book’s presentation was attended by Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, Professor at the Monterrey School of Government and Public Transformation; Zoé Robledo, Mexican Senator, and Salomón Chertorivski, Mexico City’s Secretary of Economic Development, with moderation by Tomás Granados Salinas, Director of the Grano de Sal publishing company.

Bárcena underlined the relevance and timing of the book in the current international context. “We at ECLAC have been saying that the world is going through a time of change and that the current predatory, exclusionary and concentrated style of development is unsustainable,” said the United Nations high representative, who praised the authors’ proposal to advance toward “an Emancipating, Active Welfare State that allows for the greatest freedom and autonomy of people.”

In such a scenario, she said, universal and unconditional basic income would be an added pillar to current social rights and benefits, i.e. it would not replace monetary transfers, pensions or de-commoditized access to health and education services, among others.

“This is about giving everyone the freedom to move more fluidly between paid work, education, care and volunteer work,” she explained, considering that a high percentage of young people who neither work nor study are women who take care of domestic tasks and the home.

In the prologue, Van Parijs and Vanderborght, two of the leading scholars and promoters of basic income worldwide, describe the book as “a critical synthesis of the fast-expanding multidisciplinary and multilingual literature on the subject.”

Defending the idea of an unconditional basic income, the authors point out that this “is a fundamental pillar of a free society, in which the true freedom to prosper – through work and beyond work – is equitably distributed.”