The idea of a basic income is that every UK citizen will receive a standard amount of money to live on, effectively a basic wage. Any money they earn will go on top of that basic income.
A basic income is used by several countries around the world, usually to address significant levels of poverty, and it has been found to help advance health and education. It has also been tried in economically developed countries. In the town of Dauphin in Canada a basic income was paid for four years. Politicians mainly wanted to see if people would stop working. There was only a slight decline in work – mostly among mothers, who chose to stay home with their children, and teenaged boys, who stayed in school longer. There was also a 10-per-cent drop in hospital admissions and fewer doctor visits, especially for mental-health issues. Dauphin resident Amy Richardson, now 84, was then trying to run a beauty parlour out of her living room, with four kids, an elderly mother and a disabled husband who could work only at odd jobs. The money eased the burden of costs such as school textbooks. “It helped out,” she says. “It just made things easier.” The programme was only recently evaluated, politicians having got nervous and pulled the plug on the whole scheme when the Canadian economy entered a recession.
One of the arguments for a Basic Income is that it removes the stigma of claiming for benefits and recognises that everyone has a stake in society. It is likely to both reduce absolute poverty and reduce the impacts of income inequality. This is especially the case if the money was redistributed from those on high wages, on the basis of land ownership, or wealth.
Sheffield Equality Group has been running a survey on the principle of a Basic Income. The report findings are summarised in the infographic below.
We hope this research will lead into a more comprehensive research programme exploring attitudes in the UK, with the aim of informing work towards a Basic Income. For the full report, please go to Exploring A Future Welfare State (PDF 939KB).