Trialled in Canada and Finland – endorsed by Silicon Valley executives and touted as a potential flagship policy for a future Labour government – universal basic income is the big idea on everyone’s lips.
But how would it actually work?
We ask our expert the difficult questions.
What’s the problem?
It’s not just about the rise of the robots – the real problem is that not everyone gets a fair share in the wealth of the economy.
UBI is an old idea proposed by intellectual giants such as Martin Luther King – William Morris and Virginia Woolf.
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution most of the income has gone to those who own land or capital while everyone else has been left to scrabble around to find an income.
At the moment if you’re born into wealth you can fail repeatedly without material consequences – for most people if you have a run of bad luck you can end up forced into an unsuitable job – sick or homeless.
That’s a massive waste of human potential – as a society we all lose by that.
(ed: of course a universal basic income is a great idea that progressive parties in new zealand should have as policy – what they argue for..
‘cos y’see i see one of the fundamental roles of government as providing dignity to all citizens..
and a universal basic income does just that..
and of course the economic imperatives for a u.b.i. are strong..
and are the same as those for raising minimum-wages – namely the economic boost such policy delivers..’cos not only would a u.b,i, deliver the dignity..
..it would also give the economy a serious shot in the arm..’cos in the main that money would churn straight back into the economy in the same week it is paid out..fed back into the tills of retailers/service-providers..
it’s really difficult to summon up a rational argument against a universal basic income..)
Universal basic income is according to its many and various supporters an idea whose time has come.
The deceptively simple notion of offering every citizen a regular payment without means testing or requiring them to work for it has backers as disparate as Mark Zuckerberg – Stephen Hawking – Caroline Lucas and Richard Branson.
Ed Miliband chose the concept to launch his ideas podcast Reasons to be Cheerful in the autumn.
But it is in Scotland that four councils face the task of turning basic income from a utopian fantasy to contemporary reality as they build the first pilot schemes in the UK – with the support of a £250,000 grant announced by the Scottish government last month and the explicit support of Nicola Sturgeon.
The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual – regardless of their existing benefit entitlement or earned income – a non-conditional flat-rate payment – with any income earned above that taxed progressively.
The intention is to replace the welfare safety net with a platform on which people can build their lives – whether they choose to earn – learn – care or set up a business.
The idea has its roots in 16th-century humanist philosophy.
Still – the main reason for poverty in America is not necessarily the lack of jobs but the lack of a living wage and a social safety net.
According to the Economic Policy Institute a full quarter of full-time workers still earn poverty-level wages.
A living wage – the minimum pay needed for the basics of living – has become a rallying cry for workers all over America recently as calls for an increase in the minimum wage – like Fight for Fifteen – have gained steam.
The First Minister said she would fund research into the proposal that would ‘inform parliament’s thinking for the future’.
The system has been championed as a method to do away with the UK’s welfare system – but critics complain that it is complicated and pointed out that many of the handouts overlap.
It would see benefits payments such as the dole and housing all rolled into one lump sum.
It would not be means-tested and would be given out whether the recipient has a job or not.