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Regular version of the site

International Scientific Conference “Basic Income as a Prologue to Social Policy of the 21st Century”

The Institute for Social Policy at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, the European Dialogue Expert Group, and the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia are pleased to invite you to attend the International Scientific Conference “Basic Income as a Prologue to Social Policy of the 21st Century” held on Wednesday, November 14, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Moscow at Myasnitskaya str. Building 20, Room 311.

The debate on basic income has a long history but it is only now, in the 21st century that this discussion has become more pragmatic. A number of countries including Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, etc. are piloting state-provided income for a range of social groups. Those experts who study unconditional income have already moved far away from a primitive understanding of this phenomenon as a guaranteed payment to all members of society regardless of the level of their income, employment, health, and other factors. Although important, this is not the only functional component of the emerging social system that is still taking shape under the impact of fundamental factors. Social inequality, which widens as the economy keeps growing, disruptive technologies, which tend to quickly change labor markets and the employment structure, and the ageing population as well as increasing life expectancy, must also be taken into account.

Venue: Higher School of Economics, Moscow, ul. Myasnitskaya 20, room 311

Date and time: November 14, 2018, 09.30–17.00

Working languages: English, Russian (simultaneous interpretation)

To take part in the event, please register before the seminar, at the following link  The online registration is open till Tuesday November 13, 11 am





The conference program

09:00 – 09:30

Registration of Participants & Welcome Coffee

09:30 - 11:10

Plenary Session

Basic Income: Problem Formulation


Opening Statement:


Lilia Ovcharova, Vice Rector, Higher School of Economics (5 min)

Evgeny Gontmakher, Coordinating Board Member, European Dialogue Expert Group, Professor, Higher School of Economics (5 min)

Peer Teschendorf, Director, German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia (5 min)


Moderator :

Lilia Ovcharova, Vice Rector, Higher School of Economics


Keynote Presentations :


Еvgeny Gontmakher, Coordinating Board Member, European Dialogue Expert Group, and Professor, Higher School of Economics (20-25 min)

Political and Economic Aspects of Basic Income 

Basic income issue cannot be reduced to purely fiscal effects: government spending or reducing the scope of poverty. Rather it is focusing on support for radical changes in all aspects of public life: 
- the labor market is becoming more informal in the sense of a less rigid schedule for work and leisure, location of the workplace, the nature of relationship between the employee and employer;
- labor is gradually transformed from a  necessity (source of livelihood) into a means of self-fulfillment for a human being;
- new areas of employment, primarily associated with interpersonal and intergroup communications where high wages are not possible (or nonexistent) have emerged while being quite attractive for human qualities development;
- decentralization of the state along with strengthening  the municipal level dramatically brings the taxpayer closer to the point where his money is spent.

Ruslan Yemtsov, Lead Economist and Team Leader, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, World Bank (25 min)

Jamele Rigolini, Lead Economist, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, WB
Ugo Gentilini, Senior Economist, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, WB

Feasibility of Implementing Basic Income. Russia vs Other Countries 

The World Bank is currently conducting a study assessing the feasibility of UBI in different developing country contexts. The upcoming report will differ from earlier contributions in four ways. First, it doesn’t advocate for or against a UBI per se. Instead, the objective is to identify factors and contexts that determine appropriateness of UBI as an option for reforming social protection systems. Second, while the UBI literature is heavily skewed toward high-income settings, we examine the context of low and middle-income countries. Third, we examine UBI as a social protection measure. Finally, the study tries to provide policymakers and practitioners with the comprehensive description of analytical foundations, financing, political economy and practical implementation quandaries.
Using data from a diverse set of countries the study will provide new evidence on the impacts, costs and distributional implications of replacing existing income-support programs with UBI. We do so using household survey data for a dozen low and middle-income countries with a view to provide a nuanced understanding of the factors that shape program performance. The simulations are run under different financing scenarios and, for five middle-income countries (i.e., Brazil, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa), utilize the Commitment to Equity (CEQ) framework.
These simulations point to a number conditions for UBI that have to be met. First, fiscal resources have to be expanded significantly to finance sensible transfer. Current average spending on targeted safety nets in developing countries is about 1.6% of GDP. A UBI would entail a significant increase in spending: for example, the IMF recently estimated that in emerging economies a modest UBI set at 25% of median income would cost about 3.75% of GDP. For some low-income countries like Liberia, however, a shift to universal provision (e.g., $1.9/day for everyone) would cost more than double of the entire GDP. In India, instead, a UBI of about $115/year could be paid by just replacing existing schemes (accounting for about 5% of GDP). Second, UBI may hurt the poor themselves. The benefits from extending coverage to all the poor should be weighed against the distributional costs from including the non-poor. Countries with good performance of current social assistance portfolio, especially in terms of overall coverage of the poor and overall progressivity or incidence of transfers may adversely impact the poor by introducing a UBI. 
Our specific simulations show that in Russia staying within the current level of social assistance spending (around 3% of GDP) and substituting generous but fairly flat (“across the board”) social assistance by UBI may have better results in terms of poverty reduction that the current system has. But even then a significant share among the current poor will be net losers. This provides an important lesson: UBI may be harmful socially if it is seen as a simple replacement of existing instruments.  Instead it should complement them and enhance their effects. 

Discussion Participants:


Gregory Yudin, Senior Researcher, Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology, Higher School of Economics (7 min)

Alexander Safonov, Vice Rector, Academy of Labor and Social Relations (7 min)


Discussion (20 min)

11:10 - 11:40

Coffee Break

11:40 - 13:00

Panel Discussion I: Basic Income. Experience in Practical Implementation


Topics for Discussion:

- Attempts to Implement Basic Income in Several Counties (preliminary results of the experiment in Finland, public debates and the referendum in Switzerland etc.)

Peer Teschendorf, Director, German Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia


Miska Simanainen, Researcher, Social Insurance Institute (Finland) (20 min)

Experimenting with Basic Income in Finland 

Finland is conducting a field experiment in order to learn more about the behavioural and welfare effects of a particular model of unconditional basic income. The experiment started in 2017, and it lasts for two years. The participants were randomly chosen from those who received basic unemployed benefits in the end of 2016. The treatment model guarantees a monthly minimum income equal to the level of basic unemployment benefits, unconditionally. Furthermore, it increases incentives to go from unemployment to work during the experiment because the eligibility to basic income is not linked to individual’s labour market status, and because basic income is not adjusted to market income, and finally, because basic income benefit does not affect individual’s income taxation.

In this presentation, I will discuss the background and the motivation of the Finnish experiment. Second, I will go through the details of the research design and the basic income model of the experiment. I will also describe the main outcomes and the data utilized in the official evaluation study. The first preliminary results will be published in the spring 2019. Finally, I will briefly go through the main lessons that we can learn from the studies where basic income is simulated for a larger population (not just unemployed) in Finland.


Giuliano Bonoli, Professor, University of Lausanne (Switzerland) (20 min)

The 2016 Swiss referendum on basic income 

On 5th June 2016 Swiss voters were asked if they wanted their country to adopt a basic income. The proposal was brought into the political arena by a group the Swiss chapter of the Basic Income Earth network (BIEN). The idea of a basic income was rejected by a majority of voters, but in the run up to the referendum a big debate developed on basic income but also on the adequacy of that current social protection systems to a changing world of work.

This presentation will start by describing the actual content of the proposed constitutional article on which the vote took place. Second, it will discuss the political and public debate generated by the proposal. Finally, the results of the vote will be examined, on the basis of a post-vote survey. It will be shown that contrary to what could be expected, income was not an important determinant of voting choice. The main cleavage line were instead age (younger people being more likely to support the proposal) and party political affiliation (the proposal was supported most strongly by Green Party voters).

Discussion Participants:

Vladimir Trubin, Adviser, Analytical Center under the Government of the Russian Federation (10 min)

Alexander Rubtsov, Director, Department for Philosophical Studies of Ideological Processes, Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences (10 min)


Discussion (20 min)

13:00 - 13:45


13:45 - 15:00

Panel Discussion II: Basic Income and Inequality

Topics for Discussion:

Basic income is important in the context of dealing with the global problem of the growing inequality of various kinds and large-scale public discontent that is caused by it.

-       To what extent can basic income prevent poverty and motivate people to become more active in the labor market?

-       Does this kind of social support reduce the motivation to work and foster paternalism?


Moderator :

Еvgeny Gontmakher, Coordinating Board Member, European Dialogue Expert Group, Professor, Higher School of Economics


Yury Kuznetsov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Economic Policy Journal (20-25 min)

Basic Income and the Objectives of Social Safety Net Reforms 

The [universal] basic income could be treated primarily as a model of social safety net reform. The objectives of potential reformers to a great extent determine what approach to it should be used.

-  What objectives could be or couldn’t be attained by the basic income?

-  What alternative models of reform could attain the same objectives as the basic income can and what are their comparative advantages and disadvantages?


Discussion participants :

Alexander Safonov, Vice Rector, Academy of Labor and Social Relations (10 min)

Svetlana Mareeva, Center Director, Center for Stratification Studies, Institute for Social Policy, Higher School of Economics (10 min)


Discussion (20 min)

15:00 - 15:20

Coffee Break

15:20 - 16:40

Panel Discussion 3: Basic Income and Evolution of Pension Systems


Topics for Discussion:

Population ageing along with increasing life expectancy and the shrinking pool of traditional industrial jobs are the key challenges faced by modern pension systems.

How will pension systems have to evolve in order to meet these challenges and ensure comfortable living conditions for the elderly without becoming an intolerable burden for the economy?

What role will basic income play in transforming the income model for the elderly?

To what extent can basic income replace conventional pension systems?

Should we view basic income as an additional means of protection in old age?

What are the possible benefits and risks of transferring from the conventional pension systems of the 20th century to basic income?



Oksana Sinyavskaya, Deputy Director, Institute for Social Policy, Higher School of Economics


Evgeny Yakushev, Executive Director, SAFMAR Non-Government Pension Fund (20 min)

Transforming Mandatory Pension Insurance: Next Paradigm is Unconditional Basic Income 

The population ageing  and the changing nature of labor relations have undermined the financial sustainability of the pension system. The increasing role of tax revenues in the financing of the pension system will lead to a new round of disputes about the differentiation of pensions, which may result in a socio-political compromise, such as flat rate benefits. Replacing pensions with unconditional basic income may be the most appropriate and fair mechanism for redistributing public income.

Anton Tabakh, Chief Analyst, Expert-RA agency (20 min)

Basic Income and Public Finance: Risks and Opportunities 

Launching a basic income creates a significant number of challenges and opportunities for the state (budgets at all levels) and businesses, and it depends on the width and depth of coverage, the size of the basic income and regional variations. Understanding these potential solutions is highly desirable to create a sustainable system that does not pose additional risks to the economy.

Discussion participants :

Yuri Voronin, Center Director, Center for Legal Support of Social and Economic Reforms, Institute of Legislation and Comparative Law under the Government of the Russian Federation (7 min)

Evgeny Gontmakher, Coordinating Board Member, European Dialogue Expert Group, Professor, Higher School of Economics (7 min)


Discussion (20 min)

16:40 - 17:00

Conference wrap up


Oksana Sinyavskaya, Deputy Director, Institute for Social Policy, Higher School of Economics

Evgeny Gontmakher, Coordinating Board Member, European Dialogue Expert Group, Professor, Higher School of Economics






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