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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 3°C
ireland 2029

Could a €200-per-week basic income make Irish people happier - and more motivated?

How likely is the idea to work here? We discuss the pros and cons in episode five of Ireland 2029.

A LOT CAN happen in 10 years. Where is Ireland going, and what will life be like here in the year 2029? Welcome to Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, a podcast series from

Over 10 episodes, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to bring you 10 big ideas that could change Ireland for the better. Each week, we talk to someone about an idea they truly believe could work, and find out whether it’s practical, or whether it’s a non-runner.

In the fifth episode of Ireland 2029, we ask: Should everyone in Ireland receive a basic weekly income?

“Ireland has form in trying out radical ideas,” says Lúí Smyth of Basic Income Ireland. As he notes in the new episode of Ireland 2029:

We introduced a smoking ban at a national level … We did the plastic bag tax, the other one we’re very proud of.

For many people out there, Basic Income Ireland’s proposal – a “social safety net” for Irish citizens of €200 a week, every week, regardless of job status or current earnings – will seem significantly more extreme than taxing a plastic bag.

But it’s not a brand new concept. There have been over 30 universal basic income trials of varying lengths around the world in the last 50 years, in both developing and developed countries.

The idea is also a central focus of the campaign of US Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who says a $1,000 (about €895) monthly “freedom dividend” for every American citizen would be his “first priority” if elected.

And it’s one that has been gaining traction in the tech world too. In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg hailed the concept of UBI as a way of giving people “a cushion to try out new ideas … [to] make mistakes” without financial insecurity.

Employment levels

One of the key arguments against UBI is that, in the long term, it’s not a sustainable model for boosting employment levels, unlike the current welfare system. One of the conditions for receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance here in Ireland, for example, is that a person must “be available for full-time work and genuinely seeking work”.

Preliminary results from one of the most notable and recent UBI trials in Finland – in which 2,000 unemployed Finnish citizens received a payment of €560 each month over a two-year period – showed that participants weren’t any more likely to seek new work than the control group, but they weren’t any less likely either.

In short, not much changed. But Smyth says the real value of the UBI model is that it empowers people economically, allowing them to make decisions about employment that are not solely driven by financial need:

If you have a choice between working and not working then you’re in a much stronger position regardless of what legislation says.

This opinion is reflected in the preliminary results of the Finnish trial. Despite the lack of change in employment, participants were happier, perceiving their wellbeing as being higher than those in the control group.

So is the idea worth a try in Ireland – or is it too radical to be effective? Hear more on the fifth episode of Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, which is live right now:

Full list of providers here 

Ireland 2029 / SoundCloud

Ireland 2029 is a podcast from, in partnership with Volkswagen. This episode was put together by presenter Gráinne Ní Aodha, producer Michelle Hennessy, editor Andy Roberts, series producer Órla Ryan and executive producer Christine Bohan. With thanks to Paula Lyne and our contributors.

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