If a man becomes unemployed and finds himself on means-tested benefits, then most of his partner’s income will be deducted from his benefits. There will often be little financial benefit from her staying in employment, and in some families she will experience psychological pressure to leave her job. For a woman who becomes unemployed, the situation can be different but equally damaging, for she loses her income and also the benefit of her personal tax allowance, and often becomes totally dependent on her earning partner because she cannot claim means-tested benefits in her own right.
Our benefits system still assumes that two members of a couple wish to be financially dependent on each other. My wife would be justifiably furious if her income (which is higher than mine) were to be paid to me rather than to her, and I would not be too pleased if it was the other way round; yet means-tested benefits still assume that the whole of a family’s benefits income will be paid to one household member.
A Citizen’s Income would help to right such injustices, because each adult household member would receive their own Citizen’s Income; and if the man lost his job, and if the family’s Citizen’s Incomes and his partner’s earnings added up to enough for them all to live on, then no claim for means-tested benefits would be required. A Citizen’s Income would also prevent a woman from becoming totally dependent on her partner if she became unemployed. In all of these cases, the damage to the family would be less than it is now, and we might see fewer relationship breakdowns caused by unemployment.
Not only would a Citizen’s Income contribute to both equality and independence for women, but it would do this by means that do not need to be policed, unlike many other attempts to create greater equality between women and men. A Citizen’s Income would also be a statement of the equality of every citizen, whatever the source of their income. Again, greater equality will have been created without the need for enforcement.
In addition to greater autonomy in the economy and in the labour market, a Citizen’s Income would offer to women greater autonomy, and greater ability to carry out diverse life plans. Just for once, we would not be looking at a zero sum game. Greater autonomy for women, and greater autonomy for everybody, would go hand in hand, creating one more equality between women and men.
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101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income offers a short, accessible introduction to the debate on a Citizen’s Income, showing how a universal, unconditional income for every citizen would solve problems facing the UK’s benefits system, tackle poverty, and improve social cohesion and economic efficiency. For anyone new to the subject, or who wants to introduce friends, colleagues or relatives to the idea, 101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income is the book to open up debate around the topic. Drawing on arguments detailed in Money for everyone (Policy Press, 2013), it offers a convincing case for a Citizen’s Income and a much needed resource for all interested in the future of welfare in the UK.