Monday 23rd October
This is one of those daft ideas which may even be the best solution to an increasing problem. The idea is that everyone – working or unemployed, student or housewife or retired – above a certain age should receive direct from the state a fixed amount without any means testing whatsoever. Completely crazy isn’t it? Well, not neccesarily.
We are in the middle, or maybe just the beginning of, the fourth Industrial Revolution. Computers, Automation, Robots and Artificial intelligence are rapidly replacing humans in many mundane, and not so mundane jobs. The whole concept of work is changing. We may be facing a future where maybe half the population is not working. In fact, of course, the official figures are completely misleading – they only count those unfortunates claiming Jobseekers Allowance, or whatever it is called now. Many; too sick to work; students, those choosing to be housewives or husbands, and the retired make up a huge proportion of the population already. And, anyway, a form of Universal Minimum Wage already exists. Pensioners are paid by the state; the actual amount may vary, but there is a fall back for those who maybe only paid a married woman’s stamp or are renting, in that they can claim some benefits too.
The two great advantages of paying everyone a basic minimum wage are; firstly a huge saving in bureaucracy, it is far cheaper to simply pay everyone, rather than try to work out who is “deserving”. Secondly it gives people back their self-respect – no more waiting for hours at DSS offices, of multiple forms to fill in, of feeling discriminated against, of being treated as second class citizens.
It is being trialled in Finland (and a few other places), for two years. One feature of the scheme is that the money is not automatically clawed back if an unemployed person finds work, only when their income reaches a certain point will it start to be. In Finland they are only paying the unemployed, but the idea is that everyone, working or not should receive this money. Those working would pay higher taxes generally so that the system would pay for itself.
The real advantage is of course that it will keep the economy going. We have had quite a few years of really low taxation resulting in both poverty and poor public services. This was not accidental, but it may not be sustainable either. If we are entering an era of fewer people needing to work the only solutions would be to either reduce further the working week or to pay everyone an income so that they can buy stuff and keep the wheels of industry turning.
The more you think of it, it isn’t such a daft idea after all….