900,000 families, or a total of 2.7 million people, have so far applied for the government scheme, said the head of Italian pensions and social security agency INPS Pasquale Tridico on Tuesday.
There have been fewer applications than expected, local media reports.
Before the scheme came into force, writes QuiFinanza, many had imagined there would be “a mad rush” to claim the payments. So far, this hasn't materialised.
Tridico described the number of applications, which can be made in tax offices and through the official website, as a “good result”.
The basic income application form. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP
He added that not all of these applications have yet been processed, and the rejection rate stands at 25 percent.
Payments are available to low earners and indiividual jobseekers with an annual household income below €9,360 who sign a form declaring themselves immediately available for work.
The scheme was advertised as offering up to €780 to individual claimants. But in reality only one in five will get that amount.
Tridico said 70 percent of applicants will receive more than €300 euros, and the average payment approved is of €520 euros per family.
Some seven percent of the monthly payments approved so far have been as little as €40-50.
Payments of over €1,000 are available to families, depending on their circumstances, but only around five percent of applicants wiill receive this amount.
Ministers now believe the scheme will cost less than expected, and Tridico said that any savings will be used for other social security measures.
People in the streets of Bari, Puglia, a part of Italy which suffers high levels of poverty and unemployment. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Though the name means it's often mistaken for a form of universal basic income, the payment is in fact more like unemployment benefit schemes seen in many other European countries.
Successful applicants must have been in Italy for at least two years if they are Italian citizens, and ten years for foreign nationals.
Politicians had initially insisted the payment would not be available to non-Italian citizens and the anti-immigrant League has amended the policy to make it harder for non-EU citizens to claim.
The measure will help around 1.3 million of Italy's poorest families, according to the Italian statistics institute Istat, particularly in the more impoverished south of the country.
On average, low-income families will end up receiving around 5,000 euros more annually.
The money will be paid into bank accounts which can be accessed using a special debit card, which at the moment can be used only to buy food in certain shops.
In future, the cards can be used to pay for clothes or other necessities, the government said.
Any money left on the cards at the end of the month goes back to the state, an incentive to spend the full amount which M5S leader Luigi di Maio hopes will help boost the economy.
A previous “minimum income” unemployment scheme in Italy offered a far smaller amount of money and little help with finding work.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio punveiled the first basic income payment card in February. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP