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Universal Basic Employment

"Everyone is entitled to contribute to society and to be financially rewarded for their engagement; we must urgently redefine the term work"

Photo of Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Back in 2015, Europe was absorbing large numbers of refugees and showing great compassion. Today – almost three years later – the political sentiment has turned. The fundamental problem Europe faces is that rapid unregulated change brings uncertainty; which naturally scares people. The resulting attitude of “fencing oneself out of fear of change” is strongly influencing societies and the currently observed lack of cohesion is certainly not restricted to migration issues. With full employment very likely no longer being available to everyone in the very near future, solidarity will however be crucial to prevent social disconnection of the large group of people who may face inequality by becoming jobless. Currently, one of the predominantly proposed general solutions is to provide everyone with a Universal Basic Income (UBI) so that elementary standards of living are guaranteed and employment becomes a matter of free choice rather than an imperative to survive. As an answer to the current absence of solidarity (which is essential for introducing UBI), Refival proposes to use an alternative approach, which it names Universal Basic Employment (UBE). Instead of income it defines employment to be a basic right. This means that “everyone is entitled to contribute to society and to be financially rewarded for their engagement”. Such a guiding principle is generating solidarity rather than requiring it, because the right on a (derived) basic income is rooted in one’s contribution instead of in unconditionally receiving cash transfers. What UBE fundamentally addresses or changes is the definition of employment. Instead of using the current very narrow “paid job” definition, it considers every positive contribution to society to be an occupation which should be remunerated. Compensation is earned regardless of whether the achievement is a classical “paid job”, care for children or elderly, voluntary work or education leading to personal skills development.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Universal Basic Employment can promote a return to solidarity and a growth of compassion in communities. However, such change can only be accomplished by the involvement of all stakeholders and requires social engineering pilot-projects to achieve optimization. In principle Universal Basic Employment is beneficial for a very large part of the World population, but it will have to start with relatively small community projects to develop and test individual contribution and reward templates. Refival proposes a first implementation in a European countryside village in which it focuses on Refugee or deprived minority inclusion/integration. It wants to (re)establish economic sustainability for the rural village environment, implementing a combination of its Inclusion Sourcing and Universal Basic Employment conceptual frameworks.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

UBE shares some general elements with UBI but uses a very different perspective in order to create solidarity instead of requiring it. For its Inclusion Sourcing framework ( Refival shares some basic elements with and However, its European context and structural rural revitalization approach differs from the aforementioned projects and makes it unique. Refival's goal lays beyond outsourcing of work alone. Its main focus is to "policy-wise" reestablish an Internet based rural economy and a related community structure which possesses a sustainable future. Further, for the current project, it includes an integral refugee incubation and integration approach based on relocating support or welfare budgets from urban to rural, investing the living cost difference in people via education. Finally, it focuses on establishing a structural symbiotic two-way relationship between rural and urban areas.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Initial Design: I am exploring the idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Refival is a self-funded European refugee integration initiative. Based on more than 30 years of experience in concept and strategy development, I decided in 2015 to develop a business development approach to refugee integration and rural revitalization. Currently I seek private and public sector partners, together I expect to be able to demonstrate practical, case based, examples for "the sustainable village of the future" and for "efficient refugee integration".

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered company.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

30 years ago I made a World trip. Meeting people from different cultural backgrounds and encountering – without exception – respect, warm hospitality and friendliness, brought me a deep sense of gratitude. When the “refugee crisis” started, I found myself helplessly watching many European government structures failing to show the level of respect I had witnessed. Since 2015, I therefore devote myself full-time to generating comprehensive business strategies for refugee integration.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

As part of its integration framework, Refival has developed Inclusion Sourcing. It is based on affirmative action and stimulates redistribution of economic activities to where they are needed the most. Its main principle is to relocate geographically independent jobs to areas where there are insufficient alternative options. This can prevent “forced” migration and bring peace. If structurally less employment is available, more rigorous measures must be used. Currently, one solution is to provide everyone with a Universal Basic Income. However, facing a lack of solidarity (imperative for UBI), Refival proposes to use an alternative named Universal Basic Employment (UBE). UBE defines employment to be a basic right. This means that “everyone is entitled to contribute to society and to be financially rewarded for their engagement”. Such a principle is generating solidarity because the right on a basic income is rooted in one’s contribution instead of in receiving cash transfers.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Over the past three years, Refival has been promoting its cause via frequent newsletters ( addressing policy makers, politicians, and potential private sector partners. Due to the changing political sentiment in Europe it has not been possible to convert the encountered interest into action yet. To make Inclusion Sourcing and Universal Basic Employment projects happen, Refival needs to create a connection among governments, private sector employers, deprived villages and refugees and find a solution to thoughtfully allocate – mostly already existing – funding for this purpose. If you are interested in collaboration, I encourage you to contact me and discuss further options to adopt or implement Refival's conceptual frameworks.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

The most critical threat to economical development in the European Union is its demographic trends. However, rural fertility rates have traditionally been substantially higher than urban ones. Moving jobs and people to rural areas would result in a TFR of 1.9-2.1 for the countryside, the exact numbers needed for a stable population replacement in Europe. Besides, if the pressure created by a severe shortage of urban housing is reduced, it would make housing cost in cities more affordable.

Geographic Focus

Although its concepts are universally applicable, Refival focuses on European pilot-projects.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Scaling and full implementation of Refival's conceptual frameworks will rather take decades than years, but pilot-projects to put Universal Basic Employment and Inclusion Sourcing into practice can be realized within a 36 month time-frame.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • Yes

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

The above yes is a partial yes, I submitted Refival's Inclusion Sourcing framework for refugee integration last year (, but a lack of structural European solidarity unfortunately hinders its implementation up till now. The result of this non-progress is the creation of a second conceptual framework named Universal Basic Employment, which I submit this year and which focuses on general future solidarity issues. Whereas Inclusion Sourcing dominantly addresses the division of employment between advantaged and disadvantaged geographical areas and currently separated (often privileged versus deprived) groups of people, Universal Basic Employment points at the labor division within today’s (mostly still relatively homogeneous) communities and tries to prevent social disconnection of the large group of people who soon may face inequality by becoming jobless. Last year's and this year's frameworks are each other's complements for developing a sustainable and inclusive economical future for everyone.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Martha

Yes! It’s time we take economic human rights seriously and manifestl a political economy that centers human dignity and justice. Thank you for putting this idea forward!

Photo of Johannes Cornelis van Nieuwkerk

Dear Martha,

Looking at your project I think that my comment discussion with Christina Schwanke at may be of interest to you.

Kind Regards,

Hans van Nieuwkerk