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Socialist candidate Hamon backtracks on universal basic income

media French presidential election candidate for the left-wing Socialist Party (PS) Benoit Hamon poses prior to taking part in the show "L'Emission politique" in Paris on March 9, 2017. AFP/Gabriel Bouys

French presidential candidate Benoît Hamon announced on television this Thursday that he has modified his proposal for a universal basic income, which has been central to his campaign.

Hamon has backpedalled on his proposal for a universal basic income for everyone between the ages of 18 and 25, regardless of income.

Now he is calling for a salary boost only for those that earn 1.9 times the minimum wage or less. Those that earn 2,165 euros or more per month would therefore be ineligible.

In addition, Hamon has proposed that this financial aid be determined on a sliding scale depending on income. Those who are unemployed would receive a larger sum – up to 600 euros per month – and those who have jobs would receive less.

Students who work one day a week, for example, would receive about 500 euros per month, according to Hamon.

He has estimated that those who earn minimum wage, about 1,150 euros per month, would see their salaries go up by roughly 200 euros.

For employees, the sum would be included in their pay check, and would figure on their pay stub.

Socialist support on the rocks

Hamon’s modification of his universal basic income plan could be a way to lure disaffected rank-and-file Socialists back to his side. Indeed, his initial proposal to pay everyone between the ages of 18 and 25 a monthly sum of 600 euros did not have consensus within the party, as many saw it as too far to the left of the traditional Socialist platform.

This rift between Hamon and Socialist heavyweights has left the candidate struggling to gain widespread support in his own party. Former Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, was the most recent Socialist to publically declare his backing not for his own party’s candidate, but for centrist Emmanuel Macron.

French media have also reported that Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Sports Minister Patrick Kenner, have privately expressed their support for Macron.

Budgetary concerns could have additionally played a role in Hamon's adjustment. He has now put forth an estimated cost of 35 billion euros per year, instead of 45 billion euros per year, as he had originally calculated.

The Socialist candidate has also been struggling to rise in the opinion polls. With only six weeks to go until the first round of the election, he remains a distant fourth, while Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are leading neck and neck.

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