Social Justice Ireland welcomes Basic Income for Artists, but argues that a Universal Basic Income is required

Posted on Tuesday, 5 April 2022
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The basic income pilot programme for artists, announced by Government today, is most welcome and is far more appropriate to deal with the income challenges of the 21st century than anything that is currently available. The experience of the Covid pandemic and of the current cost of living and climate crises show that the world has changed profoundly and more appropriate processes are required to ensure everybody has sufficient income to live life with dignity. Universal Basic Income (UBI) is such an appropriate process. This initiative from Minister Martin is very welcome.


The introduction of a Basic Income has been proven in other countries to be good for wellbeing, good for entrepreneurship, good for the environment, and not to have any negative impact on labour force participation. We expect that any evaluation of the current pilot will show similar benefits in an Irish context.

We must, however, herald a note of caution. While this model will benefit certain groups, it is not a Universal Basic Income and does not replace the commitment made in the Programme for Government in this regard. In Social Justice Ireland’s proposal to Government last year, we had set the level of payment at the standard social welfare rate.  This would see participants in the pilot receive €208 per week at today’s rate. Once the pilot is proven effective, and we have no doubt that it will be, it can be scaled to more groups to provide real universal coverage. The rate used in this pilot, of €325 per week, would not, unfortunately, be scalable in the long-term. We therefore continue to call on Government to introduce a real Universal Basic Income for all.

Social Justice Ireland's proposed model

Social Justice Ireland’s proposed pilot for artists and arts workers was as follows:


Eligibility criteria are derived from the Social Welfare Scheme for Professional Artists on Jobseeker's Allowance.

  • Be aged over 18 and under 66
  • Meet the habitual residence condition.
  • Be a member of one of the listed certifying professional organisations and provide a certificate or declaration from a professional body as to their status as a professional artist. 
  • Be registered as self-employed with Revenue.
  • Have at least 50% of their income derived from work as a professional artist in the previous year.

Universal Basic Income Payments

As part of the Pilot, payments are secured for the full four-year duration of the pilot at a rate of €208 per week.  Eligibility would be retained for other Social Welfare entitlements e.g. Back to school clothing and footwear, Rent Supplement, Child payment, Domiciliary Care Allowance.

UBI would be withdrawn from high earners gradually through the tax system, as market income grows from €170,000 to €250,000

How would UBI interact with the Taxation System?

Income Tax/PRSI/USC would become a Single Composite Tax

UBI would be included in Total Income and be part of the tax base.

Initial tax rate would be very low and would not be levied when only income is UBI.

Number of Participants and Exchequer Cost

Option 1: All eligible applicants are included in the Pilot. 

A key benefit of this option is that all artists/performers would be able to avail of the advantages of UBI. If 14,200 eligible participants apply and are accepted into the pilot, the annual Exchequer cost could be c. €27m.

Option 2: Limit the number of participants. 

The Pilot could be limited to 3,000 participants for example.  Quotas for age and gender could be applied so that the pilot is representative of the population per the Census of Population.  A matched comparator group would also be selected.  A benefit of this option is that comparisons would be possible between those artists/performers on UBI and those artists/performers who are not. If the pilot had 3,000 artists/performers, the annual cost would be c. €6m.

Proposed Timeline

Phase 1 – 3 Months

The Steering Group is appointed and commences work.

Phase 2 – 23 Months

This proposal is discussed/modified by the Steering Group and a Memorandum goes from the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to Government by the end of July.

The Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection prepare legislative amendments that will be required in the Finance Bill and Social Welfare Bill. 

Revenue establish a Unit to implement the pilot and commence IT preparations.  The Steering Group oversees all preparations for the pilot, including publicity and the engagement of researchers to evaluate the pilot.

Applications are invited and their eligibility is assessed.

The pilot is up and running.  Minor modifications are considered and agreed by the Steering Group if indicated by formative evaluations.  The Steering Group prepares an Annual Report to include the results of evaluations.

Summative evaluation will have access to full-year data.

The full paper from our May 2021 seminar is available HERE.

A short guide to achieving a Universal Basic Income is available HERE.