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Italy’s “citizens’ income” programme may be expensive and ineffective

TELLERS IN POST offices across Italy dreaded being overwhelmed on March 6th, the first day of applications for the “citizens’ income”. In the event, claims came in a steady stream rather than the feared flood: 35,653 of them. (Another 8,492 were filed online.) Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, which became the biggest parliamentary party at last year’s general election, hailed the launch of his signature policy as a “revolution”. But critics say the scheme is unaffordable and could blunt the incentive to work.Despite its name, the citizens’ income is aimed at the poorest Italians—more than 5m live in poverty, or 8.4% of the population, up from 3.9% a decade ago. Eligible applicants must earn less than €6,000 ($6,780) a year, have less than €6,000 in the bank, and cannot own a car that is less than six months old. Cheats run the risk of up to six years in jail.
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