20 August 2018

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 easy, and would unleash the potential of countless people trapped by domestic violence.

Supporting unpaid care workers

Those with ill or differently abled relatives are often forced to quit their jobs and look after them full-time. UBI would allow care-workers to support themselves, encouraging care work and taking pressure off 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 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 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 money, but the reality is that money actually leads to jobs. Without money, you cannot build a life that will get you a job. In order to get a job, you need to have a house with a shower, a set of clothes, money for transport, money for food, etc. 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.

Universal Basic Income

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, like getting a better education or caring for an elderly relative.

Cost

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 still a high cost.

Inequality

Some wonder if it is really fair to give the same amount of money to those born into poverty as multi-millionaires. 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

Iran 

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.

Canada 

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

In her new 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.

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