Basic Income

A Citizen’s Income is an unconditional, automatic and nonwithdrawable payment to each individual as a right of citizenship

What is it?

(A Citizen’s Basic Income is sometimes called a Basic Income (BI), a Citizen’s Income (CI), a Universal Basic Income (UBI), a Social Dividend, or a Universal Grant)

A Citizen’s Basic Income is

  • ‘Unconditional’: A Citizen’s Basic Income would vary with age, but there would be no other conditions: so everyone of the same age would receive the same Citizen’s Basic Income, whatever their gender, employment status, family structure, contribution to society, housing costs, or anything else.
  • ‘Automatic’: Someone’s Citizen’s Basic Income would be paid weekly or monthly, automatically.
  • ‘Nonwithdrawable’: Citizen’s Basic Incomes would not be means-tested. If someone’s earnings or wealth increased, then their Citizen’s Basic Income would not change.
  • ‘Individual’: Citizen’s Basic Incomes would be paid on an individual basis, and not on the basis of a couple or household.
  • ‘As a right of citizenship’: Everybody legally resident in the UK would receive a Citizen’s Basic Income, subject to a minimum period of legal residency in the UK, and continuing residency for most of the year.

A Citizen’s Basic Income scheme would phase out as many allowances against personal income tax, and as many existing state financed cash benefits, as possible, and replace them with a Citizen’s Basic Income paid automatically to every man, woman and child.

How does it work?

Every week, or every month, everyone would receive their Citizen’s Basic Income into their bank account. It would start when they were born, and would stop when they died. The amount would change when they became a young adult, and then again when they became a working age adult – and it would change for one final time when they reached state retirement age. Otherwise the only change in the amount would be the annual uprating.

Because someone’s Citizen’s Basic Income would never be taken away, it would

  • provide a secure financial platform to build on
  • give to everyone more choices over the number of hours for which they were employed
  • enable carers to balance their caring and other responsibilities, and
  • make it easier to start new businesses or to go self-employed
  • encourage personal freedom, creativity, and voluntary activity

Because everyone would get a Citizen’s Basic Income, it would

  • create social cohesion, and
  • carry no stigma

Because the Citizen’s Basic Income would never be withdrawn, it would

  • reduce the poverty trap for low income families, enabling them to lift themselves out of poverty by seeking new skills, better jobs, or additional hours of employment
  • reduce the unemployment trap, so getting a job would always mean additional disposable income
  • always be worth putting money aside

Because a Citizen’s Basic Income would be simple and efficient, it would

  • be easy to understand
  • be cheap to administer and easy to automate
  • not be prone to errors or fraud

Why do we need it?

Our current benefits system is no longer fit for purpose. It assumes that everyone has a stable single employment, that household structures don’t change, and that individuals’ circumstances change very rarely. Our lives are no longer like that: and as technology and the employment market continue to change, our benefits system will become even less appropriate. It is complex, demeaning, and prone to administrative errors. And because means-tested benefits are withdrawn as other income rises, far too many families suffer total withdrawal rates of 85%, and often up to 96%, as tax is paid and benefits are withdrawn when earned income rises. This is no incentive to seek new skills or to look for a better job. That’s no good for workers, and it’s no good for companies or for the economy.

The most popular benefit, and the one that most suits the way that we live, is Child Benefit. It just keeps on coming, providing a secure if small financial platform for every family with children. Citizen’s Basic Income takes this principle and applies it to everyone. .

In a context of rapid change, the only useful system is a simple one. A Citizen’s Basic Income is as simple as it gets.


For a list of 101 reasons for a Citizen’s Basic Income, see Malcolm Torry’s book, 101 Reasons for a Citizen’s Income.