Italy unveils basic income card

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-05 04:08:24|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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By Stefania Fumo

ROME, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio on Monday presented Italy's new basic income card, which the government will use to provide the poor and the unemployed with a monthly subsidy while also helping them find jobs.

The basic income subsidy is the flagship measure of Di Maio's populist Five Star Movement, which currently governs Italy in coalition with the rightwing League party.

The measure will provide unemployed people with income of up to 9,360 euros a year (780 euros a month), while also provide them with job training and at least three job offers.

Recipients who don't accept one of the three job offers will lose their subsidy after two years. The measure also includes incentives for companies that hire basic income recipients with permanent full-time contracts, according to the government's new basic income website, which Di Maio also unveiled on Monday.

"Here is the first (basic) income card in the history of the Italian republic -- it is the first of approximately 3 million cards," Di Maio said in televised comments, showing the card, which the state will load with the monthly benefit and which the beneficiaries can use like an ATM card.

"The state is a friend to citizens once more," Di Maio said. The deputy premier, who also serves as labor and industry minister, added that the card can't be used for gambling.

People who qualify for the basic income subsidy can apply starting on March 6, and the money will show up on their basic income card in April, Di Maio said.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who joined Di Maio at the unveiling, commented that "we (the government) are all very proud" of the new measure, which will promote social equality and inclusion.

"We hope other (countries) will study our reform," Conte said.

Also on Monday, ANSA news agency cited Tito Boeri, the head of Italy's INPS pensions and social security agency, as testifying at a Senate Labor Committee hearing that the basic income subsidy will reach an estimated 1.2 million families or 2.4 million individuals.

Confindustria industrialists association told the same hearing that the basic income measure could discourage people from looking for work because it is too high, "considering that the average salary of young people under 30 is 830 euros a month," ANSA reported.

Another critic of the basic income measure is R.E TE. Imprese Italia business association, which wrote in a statement to the Senate Labor Committee that the government should "guarantee a citizen's job, not a citizen's income" and that the basic income measure could "produce distorting effects", turning into an expensive handout that will weigh on taxpayers' wallets rather than create new jobs.

In 2017 the average yearly salary in Italy was just over 22,000 euros a year, while 8.3 percent of the population, or about 5 million people, was living in absolute poverty, according to ISTAT national statistics institute. Unemployment stood at 10.3 percent in December 2018, while youth unemployment stood at 31.9 percent, ISTAT said.