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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Implementing the Universal Basic Income in Catalonia


    UBI is a periodically earned economic social service. It configures as a guaranteed service based on subjective right. The UBI service is intended to develop citizens’ promotion and empowerment in order to overcome the conditions having led them to need such service. UBI has its origin in a popular legislative initiative (a mechanism by which citizens can present legislative proposals) presented to the Catalan Parliament in 2014 to respond to social emergencies suffered by people with fewer resources in Catalonia because of the economic crisis of the late 2000 decade.

    Objective of the practice

    UBI is a new social right that replaces and broadens the characteristics of other modalities of social services conditioned by meeting the needs of the people who are in a situation of vulnerability. The main objective of the UBI is, on the one hand, to guarantee minimum income to ensure the development of a dignified life, and, on the other hand, to associate a social service to an active policy of insertion to facilitate social inclusion or labour insertion as a mechanism to guarantee people’s autonomy and empowerment. The UBI has two services: a guaranteed and unconditional service; and a complementary service of activation and insertion, conditioned by the commitment to develop, and, if applicable, follow a social inclusion or employment insertion plan.<br />
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    UBI characteristics and type connect directly with Goals 1 and 10 of the 2030 agenda. Indeed, objectives 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, as well as 10.4 of these Goals have as basic purpose to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities. This requires, among other things, universal access to basic services and guaranteeing a level of social protection appropriate to the population, as well as promoting resilience of people who are in a more vulnerable situation. UBI, based on the principle of equality, understood as the elimination of any discrimination in access to the service, means extending vulnerable groups’ coverage and social protection by recognizing and guaranteeing the universal right to minimum income in accordance with life standards of the community in which they live. UBI also has an important role of family policy inasmuch as it protects families and children from vulnerability situations.<br />
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    Simultaneously, UBI focuses on reversing risk factors for chronification of vulnerability and poverty contexts through beneficiaries’ active, committed and responsible contribution in developing and evaluating their labour insertion or social inclusion itineraries, as well as providing them with tools that facilitate their empowerment in the process of change.<br />
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    Analysing UBI service long-term impact on Catalonia requires analysing the general effect of social services in reducing poverty. In Catalonia, in 2017 the poverty risk rate (indicator that measures the poverty risk using the methodology adopted in all EU countries) prior to social transfers was 24.8%. After social transfers, the poverty risk rate stood at 20.0%. This implies that social transfers had a reduction coefficient of 4.8 percentage points, that is, social transfers reduced poverty risk by 19.3%. In Europe, the reducing effect of social transfers stood at 8.6 points in the same year.<br />
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    Furthermore, the amount of social services package also presents a progressive pattern showing that social services greatest expense is oriented towards lower income groups of population. Based on 2016 data, 10% of the population with lowest income is the one that receives the highest average amount of social services, in addition to having the highest coverage rate. At the same time, the progressive character of social services also reduces increasing inequalities in income distribution.

    The beneficiaries are people over 23 years old (18 in special cases), residing in Catalonia during the previous 24 months, that do not have neither a minimum income over the previous six months, nor benefit of any residential service.
    The Government of Catalonia is responsible for UBI deployment through its competent Ministry and the Public Employment Service of Catalonia. They jointly design, monitor and evaluate job placement plans, with the agreement of local social services – which prepare insertion and social inclusion itineraries, and carry out the monitoring and evaluation, with beneficiary’s commitment and active participation in both preparation and development.
    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    In 2014, a Popular Legislative Initiative was presented to the Parliament of Catalonia with the aim of creating an UBI in Catalonia, approved by Parliament in July 2017 and which entered into force on September 15 of the same year. This Law provides that recipients of a previously conditioned economic benefit and lower pensions (more than 107,000 people) should become RGC beneficiaries automatically.

    Since the approval of the Law, the processes and the necessary infrastructure to deploy the UBI were implemented very quickly. To do this, cross-sectional working groups of the units and agents involved were formed.

    The main implementation actions are:
    • Preparation and revision of the Training Plan for the professionals and agents involved and the Communication Plan for citizens.
    • Definition and implementation of the Support Plan (contingency plan, resolution of incidents and doubts).
    • Professional recruitment program. Once the functions and profiles were defined, a study of the necessary dimensions for the processing and management of the new provision was made, determining the available professionals and the necessary additional ones, as well as the physical spaces. With this information, a contracting program was presented for the management of the UBI, approved by the Government and which contemplated hiring more than 350 professionals. Support was also extended to Local Authorities by increasing the budget allocated to social services professionals to attend the UBI group.
    • Definition of the process of processing. The main agents involved were identified as well as the functions that had to be carried out: from the conclusion of previous appointments, interviews and evaluations of users, to the elaboration, execution, follow-up and evaluation of the plans of labor insertion and Social inclusion, coordination tasks, complaints and claims management, follow-up of approved entities to manage the UBI, inspection and control, among others.
    • Implementation of specific ICT solutions.
    • Analysis and evaluation of the implementation of the processes initially planned to improve the management and resolution of applications, such as the appointments system, the terms of resolution and the operation of the questionnaire used for segmentation of user profiles .
    • Creation of working groups for the legal deployment and modification of the Law to avoid the exclusion of certain vulnerable groups derived from the application of one of the initial requirements to become a beneficiary.
    • 4 levels of coordination: 1) Local social workers and work offices, to coordinate the individual actions that allow the evaluation and transfer of the beneficiaries between units depending on the situation in which they are. 2) Territorial Coordination Tables, to solve incidents, share good practices, make proposals for improvement, apply territorial guidelines, follow-up and evaluation at the municipal, county and other levels. 3) Interdepartmental Commission to align the strategy, evaluate and promote the correct functioning of all the units and departments that intervene in the management. 4) Government Commission, for the evaluation and monitoring of the application and operation of the UBI.

    UBI approval and entry into force culminates in September 2017. Since then, over a year has passed, and we still do not have any statistical evidence to evaluate the specific results of practice from the logic of public intervention change theory. However, we do have enough background to evaluate the practice from the products (outputs).

    Implementation Strategy: because of UBI entry into force on September 15, 2017, about 107,000 people -holders and beneficiaries of conditional service old modalities- automatically became UBI beneficiaries. This migration was an implementation challenge, since it was necessary to preserve and guarantee the continuity of service for previous modalities receivers, while responding to new UBI applicants because of coverage expansion. This initial requirement demanded adapting work processes and introducing ICT innovations, with technological deployment by stages that allowed prioritization and reinforcement of functional needs at all times, as well as an increase in human resources devoted to service management. Thank to this gradual deployment, in two months 62,525 beneficiaries (corresponding to 26,130 families) became UBI receivers.

    Increase in the service amount: the average monthly amount received per family went from 544 € to 734 € - which is an increase of 35%. At the same time, 44,895 pensioners with lowest incomes (recipients of the non-contributory pension complement) received the UBI payment (107 € to 131 €). This was an increase of about 22% - a substantial increase in the minimum income threshold and, by extension, a significant increase in resources for people being in a lack of means situation.

    Call effect: in September 2018 over 115,000 people were UBI beneficiaries – an increase of 7.5%. The volume of monthly applications came to multiply by over 15 the average number of monthly applications of the previous service modality. In total, 74% of these applications were evaluated, and 5,300 of them were approved, accounting for 10% of the evaluated applications. This percentage has been increasing progressively as the population’s information on UBI has been improving. In parallel, 74% of the applications were rejected, and applicants withdrew 11%. This high volume of denied requests was because the UBI communication plan had generated a call effect over the first months, and many applicants did not meet the requirements.

    Social inclusion or labour integration processes are an empowerment mechanism for people with risk factors for chronification. In total, 85% of them requested the insertion activation supplementary service. This percentage implies a very high participation degree in the process of drawing up insertion or social integration plans and itineraries, compared to the total number of applicants. In total, 75% of the applicants had a start group session, and signed a commitment with the insertion plan, with over 36,000 labour orientation actions for UBI applicants. Because of this active participation and contribution, up to October 2018 over 3,213 families had been included, and 1,971 cases had definitively suspended UBI thanks to successful job placement (72% of the suspensions).
    Enabling factors and constraints
    UBI has its origin in a popular legislative initiative that collected 121,191 signatures. It began being processed through the reformulation of the amendments presented by the parliamentary groups, and subsequent working in the papers. The agreement was signed in May 2017; it incorporates all the work done in the context of the parliamentary groups’ paper. On July 12, the Parliament of Catalonia approved the UBI Law, after all the parliamentary groups had voted in favour. The path from a popular legislative initiative up to its approval demonstrates a broad social and political consensus that configures a very important facilitating context in the deployment of the practice.

    In parallel, the insertion process through social inclusion or employment insertion plans implies, on the one hand, local community’s participation through social services professionals responsible for drawing up and monitoring insertion itineraries. On the other hand, the insertion process implies an agreement with all social and economic agents, being the third sector and business fabric a fundamental part in job offers integrated in insertion itineraries, with a labour contracts typology including job training and working practice.

    On the other hand, knowledge and experience accumulated during the management years of the previous conditioned service modality have been a facilitating factor in UBI development. Thus, prior to UBI Law approval, an analysis was carried out on this type of service, to have an overview of the situation and identify possible improvement opportunities to implement the UBI. The diagnosis showed an applicants’ decrease of 25% over the last two years. Some improvement points were also identified in the management processes of the previous service. They helped improve both dimensioning and correct adapting of structures to implement UBI by stages. Lastly, resolution deadlines for applicants were also reduced significantly, passing from 4 months in the previous type of service to just 3 months in the current UBI.
    With regard to financing, UBI economic service is financed by Catalan Government's budget, and loans are expandable to ensure sufficient service coverage. The Catalan Government is in charge of UBI economic payment, of activation and insertion complementary service, as well as of expenses resulting from individual plans for labour insertion and social inclusion.
    Thus, the Government of Catalonia has to include in its draft budget law the line necessary to guarantee UBI effectiveness. On the one hand, the budget is mainly allocated to payees' wages, with an important 35% increase of the minimum income, on average. On the other hand, it is allocated to agreements with local organisations, companies and third sector entities taking part in training and job placement programs within the framework of social inclusion or job insertion plans.
    Sustainability and replicability
    UBI is the expression of several principles, such as the equality principle understood as eliminating any discrimination in service access. Such as equity principle, because recognition and application of the service are posed as response to a situation of need from a perspective of resources redistribution, and positive discrimination. Such as people’s societal empowerment and autonomy principle - understood as a set of economic benefits and services that strengthen people while allowing them overcome poverty and necessity situations that should always be temporary and unchronified. And such of universality, solidarity and complementarity principle, since access is guaranteed to all qualifying people, and the service constitutes an expression of solidarity and social justice insofar as it complements recipients' income when they lack of means.

    Regulation of this service is also a manifestation of stability principle, because it maintains the income as long as the social exclusion situation that was its origin persists, as well as compliance with established requirements, conditions and obligations. At the same time, recipients' participation is also a principle of unavoidable attention. Therefore, it guarantees their active, committed and responsible contribution to overcome the exclusion situation, as well as their intervention when programming and developing possible itineraries designed for their integration or labour insertion.

    Social inclusion and labour insertion are guiding lines for UBI implementation. They help avoid chronification of a vulnerability situation, while facilitating economic sustainability of the initiative - which is also guaranteed through gradual deployment of economic amounts of the service it provides for the RGC Law, from its entry into force in September 2017 until its full implementation on April 1, 2020.

    UBI is, therefore, one of few successful projects in Europe involving the entire population of a territory of over 7 million inhabitants to fight social inequality and poverty of groups at risk of exclusion, by providing them with financial and personal resources to guarantee a dignified life, as well as their empowerment and resilience to reverse their vulnerability situation. Other territories or nations in Europe can implement this kind of projects. In fact, there are currently similar projects in some European Union countries (examples in Finland, Holland, Spain), although they do not have UBI’s universal nature.

    Finally, quantification of social benefits of a measure such as UBI has become enormously complex. By way of guidance, social benefits stand in the field of improving people's opportunities and, therefore, in improving the social, economic and cultural capital of society as a whole, as well as of its population. Highlighting this social dimension becomes fundamental to situate the need for articulating measures to fight poverty and social exclusion, as well as to improve administrations’ response.

    Fight against poverty and social exclusion is one of European Union countries’ most important commitments. In Europe and Catalonia, social services have a reducer effect on at-risk-of-poverty rates and social inequalities indicators.<br />
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    UBI is a new subjective social right that replaces and broadens the characteristics of other social services modalities conditioned by addressing vulnerable groups’ needs. UBI law regulates this commitment and contributes to ensure the principles of equity, empowerment and personal autonomy, universality, solidarity and responsibility of public administrations with regard to all citizens.<br />
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    UBI corresponds to two kinds of service: a guaranteed, unconditional service that is subject to requirements established by UBI Law, which guarantees minimum income for the development of a dignified life, and an activation and insertion complementary service – a plan for social inclusion or labour insertion to guarantee people’s autonomy and empowerment.<br />
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    Over the first year of the service:<br />
    • At least 115,000 people received the UBI payment and benefited from UBI Law.<br />
    • The UBI Law also created a complement to other services, pensions and state aids that allows recipients to reach UBI payment amount. This complementarity accounts for an increase of around 22% of non-contributory pension supplements amount received by pensioners with lower income.<br />
    • UBI average monthly amount per recipient family increased by 35%, compared to the amount of previous conditional economic services.<br />
    • In total, 85% of applicants for activable UBI requested the complementary service of activation and insertion conditioned to a commitment to develop and follow a social inclusion or labour insertion plan. In total, 72% of UBI suspensions are definitive thanks to job placement. The implementation of these labour insertion and social inclusion programs also involves, among others, an increase in Catalan Government’s budget lines assigned to activation, insertion and inclusion programs. It shall also result in a financing increase for social services basic areas meeting these groups’ needs, as well as in increasing promotion of UBI contracts concluded by ordinary companies for at-risk-of-exclusion or disable people. <br />
    • UBI implementation involves different public and private agents to achieve social inclusion and labour insertion goal, in order to provide people and families with a decent life, empowerment and resilience to reverse the vulnerability situation.<br />
    • Avoiding chronification situations, and gradually unfolding the payment amounts according to UBI Law from its entry into force until its full implementation in 2020, contribute to guarantee economic sustainability of the initiative.<br />
    • The UBI deployment communication plan included a communication campaign to promote and publicize UBI to the public. However, upon UBI Law’s entry into force, there was a call effect. Yet, many people did not meet the requirements; the main reason for refusal was having higher income than the minimum required threshold.

    Financing (in USD)
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    Name Description
    Action Network
    SDG Good Practices First Call
    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    15 September 2017 (start date)
    28 February 2019 (date of completion)
    Government of Catalonia
    1. Europe
    Geographical coverage
    The territorial implementation area of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the area geographically and administratively determining the limits of Catalonia (autonomous community) as defined in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia.
    Website/More information
    Contact Information

    Toni Ferrer, Multilateral Affairs Officer