If done right the scheme would be affordable and empower workersby Anthony Painter / February 16, 2018 / Leave a comment
Long before Universal Basic Income (UBI) became caricatured by its opponents as a Silicon Valley conspiracy, the Royal Society of the Arts was looking at the idea as a means of helping to address prevalent economic insecurity. The idea was that UBI—the unconditional payment of a regular sum of money to all citizens—would give people a better safety net and therefore give them extra freedom to make better decisions about their own lives.
As the debate ignited, as the idea moved from the imagination to the mainstream, so the misinformation spread. Perhaps inevitably, too many advocates have overstated the benefits of UBI and the risks if it is not adopted. On the other side, the argument has been preceded by scare stories of UBI as a gateway to a post-work dystopia. We accept neither of these interpretations.
Instead, we should look at the evidence of what UBI has been in practice—generally beneficial across the board in numerous trials. Time and time again we have returned to our original argument: a carefully implemented UBI would support good work rather than usher in a post-work future.
Our recently published discussion paper is intended to widen the lens on UBI. At the core of this paper is the following idea. In order to help provide greater security as people navigate economic and technological challenges in the 2020s, the government should provide up to two years of a £5,000 payment per annum for each family member (including children). This would enable people to re-train, try a new business idea, assume caring responsibilities, or perhaps try a new career. It would give people a helping hand in navigating the changing world of work; something we don’t believe the current social contract does adequately.
Our primary concern is economic insecurity. This is influenced by a range of interrelated factors beyond employment status. 30 percent of workers face chronic or acute precariousness with a further 40 percent facing uncertain futures. Access to that £5,000 payment could be just the support that makes a risk manageable or an opportunity worth taking. Think of it as a student grant but for everyone.
To fund the “Universal Basic Opportunity Fund” (UBOF), the government would finance an endowment to cover the fund for 14 years from a public debt issue (at current low interest rates). This endowment would be invested in housing, transport, energy and digital infrastructure for secure revenue and in global assets such…