By Chris Fielding.
I have always been slightly curious about the concept of a Universal Basic Income, and if it would be a beneficial amendment to our welfare. After some considering, I think it might be, for both economic and social reasons. As I am not too sure that everyone is familiar with the concept of a Universal Basic Income, let me explain it. The basic core of the idea of the idea is that the Government would issue a check to everyone that would cover the basic costs of living. This would be issued irrespective of the person’s income and social position.
There have been studies from across the globe about this concept, and its impact on society. In America, it was found that families reduced their working hours by 13%, but it was mainly the secondary earners in the families who cut back on their hours more. This meant that they had more time to look after the family home. It also led to a reduction in young adults getting part-time jobs and allows them to focus on their education. I believe that we can all agree that parents spending more of their time raising their children, or caring for elderly family members, and not worrying about the families income, and being forced to take a job, if they do not want to, can only be a good thing for the social structure of society. It would not be good economically, but then it comes down to what you, as a person, value more. I would personally prefer my children to have an upbringing where their parents play a key part, and for families that want to care for their elderly members being able to afford to do that.
Then there is the argument to be had about the education of young adults, if by providing these young adults with a basic income means that they will stay in education, and possibly even achieve higher grades, and then I think it would be an idea worth considering. I would say that it would encourage those young adults to stay in education that would not normally have been able to afford it. The impact on young adults and performance in education is one area that does need further study, to see if there is a material impact on performance and grades obtained.
What about people not bothering to find work, and so not contributing to the economy and the Government’s tax receipts? I believe that having a job is a lot more than just having a way to earn money, it is part of a person’s identity and dignity, and so people will still work as they will want to feel like they are contributing to something greater. A Universal Basic Income will just mean that people will not be locked into dangerous or dead-end jobs as a way to make ends meet. It might even lead to employers treating their employees better, as they would be able to completely rely on the monthly pay check to keep staff in the role. There would need to be good working conditions or other advantages to the position.
It was acknowledged by Charles Darwin that he was able to travel on the HMS Beagle as he had ‘ample leisure from not having to earn my own bread’. This quote nicely reinforces the next point, which is, those in society that do not work for a living might go and replace it with something equally, or in some cases, more meaningful than the 9 to 5. Some of society would use this new found time to take risks, maybe start a business and explore whatever new ideas that they might have had, but were unable to explore, due to the proposition being too financially risky.
If the income is to be universal, then there is a question about how much should each person receive a month. I believe that everyone should receive enough money to have a basic lifestyle in London, as this would hopefully have a double effect, encourage people to move out of London and into other areas of the country which are not as overpopulated. The second effect would be to encourage those in poorer parts of the country to start their own businesses and to take more chances, as the financial impact of failure would be much lower. This could mean that a boom in local business, hiring local people, would contribute to the much needed regeneration of the country outside London.
A policy such as Universal Basic Income can lead to a massive reform in Government welfare, I believe that it would be possible to merge Jobseeker’s Allowance, State Pension and Housing Benefit, into the Universal Basic Income, as it would be covering these sorts of payments.
In conclusion, there are many benefits for enacting a policy such as Universal Basic Income. It would hopefully improve education, allow working people more free time, and hopefully aid in the creation of new businesses in the UK.
Any thoughts, as always are appreciated.