Universal Basic Income

What are the benefits of Universal Basic Income?

Fighting technological unemployment

With advanced technology taking over more and more blue and white collar jobs, UBI would act as a sort of security net for the millions of people who will be left jobless by the tech revolution. Research shows that the longer you are unemployed, the longer it takes to find employment. If the jobless had a small source of income to help them back on their feet, they could find new jobs and start contributing to the economy sooner.

Ending abuse

Those who suffer domestic abuse, mainly women, become trapped in violent situations because they don’t have the means to leave them. UBI would make leaving an abusive partner easier from a financial point of view, at least, and would unleash the working potential of countless people who are constrained - professionally, physically and emotionally - by domestic violence.

Supporting unpaid care workers

Those with ill or differently abled relatives are often forced to quit their jobs to care for them full-time. UBI would allow care-workers to support themselves, encouraging care work within the home and relieving pressure on public services that provide care to the sick and elderly.

Expanding the middle class

The economic growth of high-income countries is making the rich richer, but having very little effect on the working classes. The research of economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty showed that 'the bottom half of earners went from making 20 percent of overall income in 1979 to just 13 percent in 2014. The top 1 percent, on the other hand, have gone from making 11 percent to 20 percent. The pie has gotten vastly bigger, and the richest families have reaped bigger and bigger pieces from it'. UBI would help to balance this inequality and expand the ever-shrinking middle class.

Ending poverty

Advocates for UBI believe that in some of the richest countries in the world, no one should be too poor to live. UBI would bring everyone’s income above the poverty line.

Eliminating the need for social security

There exist countless governmental organisations responsible for helping those in poverty, handing out unemployment benefits, food stamps, subsidised housing, etc. UBI would cut a country’s spending by eliminating these organisations.

Discouraging low wages

UBI would give employees enough security to have bargaining power. As Annie Lowrey says, 'why take a crummy job for 7.25 an hour when you have a guaranteed 1,000 dollars a month to fall back on?'

Think of it like Monopoly

Most people intuitively think that jobs lead to financial wealth, but the reality is that having money actually leads to jobs. Without the privilege of wealth, it is more difficult to build a life that makes landing a job easier. In order to get a job, you need to have a house with a shower, a set of approrpriate interview clothes and the funds to cover the cost of transport and food during the working day. If you want to contribute to the economy on an even greater scale and start your own business, you’ll need even more money. In the game Monopoly, everyone starts off with a little bit of money – without it, the game wouldn’t work and no one would be able to become rich or successful. UBI is like Monopoly – everyone starts off with a little bit of money, and uses it to fuel a thriving economy.

Successful implementation of UBI would mean improvements in food security, stress, mental health, physical health, housing, education, and employment.

What are the possible disadvantages of Universal Basic Income?

Motivation to work

The biggest concern is that UBI would incite millions of workers to stop working. If people aren’t working, there is less taxable income. However, people may choose to stop working for reasons that benefit society as a whole, such as getting a better education or caring for a relative in need.


The cost of implementing UBI in the United States is estimated to be about 3.9 trillion per year. The idea is that UBI would take pressure off health services and make social security institutions redundant, but this is nevertheless an enormous number for a government to budget for.


Some wonder if it is really fair to give the same amount of money to billionaires as those born into poverty. Does Bill Gates really need extra money each month? Some believe that a certain accumulation of wealth should show you have out-grown UBI.

Philosophical counterarguments

Is money a birthright? Capitalist countries are built on the ideological foundation that money is something we earn – UBI would completely change this. Some believe that community service should be a requirement for receiving UBI.

Case Studies


In 2010, the government of Iran ran a UBI trial, giving citizens transfers of 29 percent of the median income each month. Poverty and inequality were reduced, and there was no sign of large amounts of people leaving the labour market. In fact, people used it to invest in their businesses, encouraging the growth of small enterprises.


A UBI trial in Manitoba, Canada, showed a modest reduction in workers, along with fewer hospitalisations and mental health diagnoses.

In her book, Give People Money, Annie Lowrey speaks to experts around the world about Universal Basic Income, the simple idea to solve inequality and revolutionise our lives.

  • Give People Money

  • Shortlisted for the 2018 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award!

    Surely just giving people money couldn't work. Or could it?

    Imagine if every month the government deposited £1000 in your bank account, with no strings attached and nothing expected in return. It sounds crazy, but Universal Basic Income (UBI) has become one of the most influential policy ideas of our time, backed by thinkers on both the left and the right. The founder of Facebook, Obama's chief economist, governments from Canada to Finland are all seriously debating some form of UBI.

    In this sparkling and provocative book, economics writer Annie Lowrey looks at the global UBI movement. She travels to Kenya to see how UBI is lifting the poorest people on earth out of destitution, and India to see how inefficient government programs are failing the poor. She visits South Korea to interrogate UBI’s intellectual pedigree, and Silicon Valley to meet the tech titans financing UBI pilots in the face of advanced artificial intelligence and little need for human labour. She also examines at the challenges the movement faces: contradictory aims, uncomfortable costs, and most powerfully, the entrenched belief that no one should get something for nothing.

    The UBI movement is not just an economic policy -- it also calls into question our deepest intuitions about what we owe each other and what activities we should reward and value as a society.

  • Buy the book

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