So far trialed in Europe, the US, and a few other countries, a universal basic income (UBI) is basically a guarantee from the government that everyone gets a minimum income (meant to cover the basic cost of living). Now, the UK wants to have a go at it, specifically in the port city of Hull.
A group of councilors from different parties backed the idea of giving every adult in Hull a sum that would range between 50 and 100 pounds per week regardless of their income. Those who currently get disability payments or pensions would “instead get the equivalent sum in universal basic income and there would be higher payments for pensioners and lower sums for children,” according to The Guardian.
Alongside Hull, Sheffield and Liverpool — all of which are cities in northern England — have also asked to host pilots of the universal basic income program. Sam Gregory, a member of a lab that backs the project in Sheffield said the reaction shows that “the Westminster way of doing things has failed these communities for far too long.”
Nevertheless, the process won’t be straightforward for Hull. Matt Jukes, the chief executive of Hull city council, will have to ask permission to Sajid Javid, the chancellor. The shadow chancellor, John McDonell, had vowed to OK the scheme if Labor won last month’s election.
A 2016 report by Compass looked at the possibility of implementing UBI across England. The results showed it would be “too expensive” to do so but highlighted the positive outcomes it would bring such as “raising average incomes at the bottom and reducing poverty levels.”
Universal basic income under discussion
Providing citizens with universal basic income has emerged as a key discussion in different parts of the world. While some economists claim the scheme is a source of empowerment as it gives citizens more choices, others have criticized it for being too expensive and difficult to implement.
The fear behind automation and artificial intelligence leaving millions out of jobs in the future has been a driver of UBI. Up to one-third of the US workforce will need to learn new skills and change jobs by 2030 because of automation, a McKinsey & Company report said.
Back in 2017, Finland was the first country to try a version of universal basic income. Two years after, preliminary results showed that 55% of those who received it said they felt less stressed and had less difficulty concentrating. Nevertheless, Finland decided not to continue with the study.
In the US, the town of Stockton, California is doing an 18-month experiment, paying 500 dollars to 130 randomly selected citizens with the objective of reducing poverty. The town’s mayor Michael Tubbs found inspiration in a book by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who said the solution to poverty was to implement a guaranteed income.
Meanwhile, Canada, Ontario launched a plan in 2017 to distribute monthly payments for three years to 4,000 people with limited income. Nevertheless, a few months later the government canceled the scheme, despite early results were similar to the ones reported in Finland.