Should a sixth characteristic of Basic Income be Uniformity or Sufficiency?

Posted on January 26, 2022

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During our public online UBI Lab Leeds meeting on Tuesday, 25 January, 18-20hrs Telemaque Masson-Recipon from France gave a thought-provoking presentation about the topic which was followed by an interesting discussion. If you want to see his presentation and listen to the discussion, please click on this link.

You can find a brief summary of the topic below. In case you have comments or suggestions for future topics related to Universal Basic Income, please contact the coordinator < >


Telemaque Masson-Recipon has been discussing and researching the definition of Basic Income for nearly ten years with Basic Income activists from all over the world. He is now preparing an academic dissertation on the subject.

In 1986 Basic Income European Network, the predecessor of Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) introduced the first definition of Basic Income (BI) with three criteria: (1) paid on an individual basis, (2) without means test and (3) no work requirements. This definition left open the option that a BI could be paid in kind, and take the form of a basic endowment, paid in a single instalment, for instance when a person reaches a certain age. In 2016 BIEN modified the definition and included the two criteria that a BI has to be paid in cash (4), and delivered on a regular basis (5).

 Some BI activists argued without success that the definition should include another criterion of “sufficiency” or “adequacy to needs” so that a BI was high enough to either “live a dignified existence” or “do without having to accept a job”. Since then some people and organisations have spoken of a “partial basic income” which does not cover all essential human needs. There is the additional risk that a few BI supporters would favour a replacement of all basic services such as education and healthcare with a BI. However, most BI activists are opposed to such an approach. 

In 2019 the BIEN general assembly set up an official working group to clarify the BI definition. The presentation of Telemaque will discuss the tension and distinction between two different definitions a BI. The first one is a narrow technical understanding distributing money according to six formal criteria (characteristics) namely as a uniform amount [6] cash payment [4] delivered periodically [5] and on an individual basis [1], to all, without means test [2] or activity test [3]). The other definition has a broader and aspirational understanding, namely the goal of sufficiency, ‘the universal and unconditional guarantee of the material means of individual autonomy’.