Why is a Basic Income unconditional?

Why is a Basic Income unconditional?

Following on from last week’s blog about why a Basic Income has no behavioural requirements, Basic Income Network Scotland board member Conor Hunter explains why a Basic Income is unconditional. You can read the rest of the series, on FAQs about the key principles of a Basic Income, here

Basic Income should be Unconditional. What do we mean by Unconditional?

A basic income is not accompanied by behavioural requirements for recipients to participate in authorised activities. It is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate a willingness-to-work, to undertake volunteer work, or to behave according to traditional gender roles. In other words, it is obligation free. (1)

Why should basic income be Unconditional?

Basic Income provides a human right: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’(2) Human Rights are inalienable and therefore any system in place to protect or provide these rights should not carry conditions.

Basic Income provides freedom for the recipient. Placing conditions on the receipt of Basic Income means it is no longer a payment which gives the recipient the rights and freedom associated with the idea of Basic Income; the payment then becomes an inducement to control the individual to behave in a certain manner (to seek work, to perform work or to otherwise instruct their actions).

Whilst restrictions placed on payments may not be onerous or an inducement, having any restriction sets a precedent of conditionality. This would allow the conditions to be altered to induce recipients to act or behave in a certain way, a method of controlling the recipient.

Only by defining Unconditionality within the definition of a Basic Income can we ensure that it provides freedom and rights to all; and cannot be used to exact power or reduce the freedom and rights of any individual.


  1. Essentials of Basic Income – Annie Miller

Conor Hunter, Basic Income Network Scotland board member

Image credit: “It’s Human Rights Day for Them, Too” by US Department of State is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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