“Chronically broke” Britain’s call for universal basic income

Trialled in Canada and Finland and endorsed by Martin Luther King Jr and Virginia Woolf, a universal basic income (UBI) consists of governments providing citizens with an unconditional sum of money regardless of whether recipients are employed or looking for work.

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) proposed the government to consider a £10,000 grant to every British citizen under the age of 55.

The scheme would cost approximately £14.5 billion per year over 13 years and benefit 70 percent of the population.

It was compared to pension protections which cost more than £6 billion a year but only benefit a fifth of the population.

Oxford led research estimates that around 40 percent of UK and European jobs could be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics. Last month, the RSA found that 70 percent of Britainís employed population is ìchronically brokeî or making just enough to get by. The rising threat of job loss to automation and Britainís departure from the EU leads to a legitimate concern. If successful, UBI can alleviate some of the consequences.

The concept is inspired by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme set up during Margaret Thatcherís government, which provided a guaranteed income of £40 a week to people who establish their own businesses.

The RSA suggested that the money would come from a ìmodest increaseî in taxes of the wealthy or new levies on large corporate bodies such as Facebook.

Oxford professor Ian Goldin points out that moving from a scheme that provides income to targeted individuals (unemployed or disabled, for instance) to one accessible to all would gravely affect those who most need it.

He also notes that it would distress health and education budgets.

Professor Goldin says that a basic income could encourage people not to participate in society and that social benefits should not create a culture of lifetime dependence as UBI would.

With rising competition for jobs and increasing pressure to excel in the workplace, a healthy work-life balance is hard to achieve.

Dr Guy Standing from the School of Oriental and African Studies  (SOAS), in London, said that a BI is socially just, enhances freedom, produces basic security and would cut poverty.

He also noted that polls show that 90 percent of people would continue to work with a basic income.

The report acknowledged that uncertainties around Brexit make implementing UBI “unlikely in the immediate future”.


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