The Covid-19 pandemic has brought home to everyone just how financially insecure our world is. A few months off work can throw millions into debt and, in extreme cases, hunger and homelessness. Furthermore, if the Government is compelling people to stay at home to save lives, it needs to find ways to make it feasible for people to follow that advice. A Citizen’s Basic Income can achieve that objective.
A Universal Basic Income would be an expedient way to get money to everyone in times of crisis like this one. But it is not just about dealing with moments of national crisis. Even in more normal circumstances, because someone’s Citizen’s Basic Income would never be taken away, it would
- provide a secure financial platform to build on
- enable the employment market to become more flexible at the same time as enhancing income security
- give to everyone more choices over the number of hours for which they were employed
- enable carers to balance their caring and other responsibilities
- make it easier to start new businesses or to go self-employed, and
- 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Because the Citizen’s Basic Income would never be withdrawn, it would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
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
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. Currently about one third of households are on stigmatising and demeaning means-tested benefits (including Tax Credits and Universal Credit); and because these benefits are withdrawn as other income rises, such households can suffer total withdrawal rates of up to 96% if they are on Tax Credits, and of up to 76% if they are on Universal Credit. 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.
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