Universal basic income: What is universal basic income?

Increasing numbers of people are calling for universal basic income (UBI) for as long as the coronavirus crisis lasts. Some experts argue a UBI is the only way in which everyone, regardless of employment status, will be protected from the worst of the economic turmoil inevitably brought on by coronavirus.

What is universal basic income?

The idea of universal basic income is for everyone to be treated financially equal. UBI stems around giving every citizen, regardless of how much money they make, a sum of money.

The sum would be paid regularly and would extend to cover the person’s lifespan.

Jamie Cook, head of RSA Scotland, said: “Basic income is regular and secure payments directly to every individual within a country, which comes from the state, and I think it has to have certain core elements to it – it is universal, it is unconditional, and it is regular, secure and direct.”

Daniel Susskind, an economist at Balliol College at Oxford University writes in the Financial Times that UBI is an “affordable and feasible response to coronavirus”.

He says the nearly five million self-employed workers in Britain along with around six million small businesses, are the most threatened by the economic downfall of COVID-19.


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Mr Susskind recommends every adult in the UK be paid a UBI of £1,000 a month to provide a “direct and instantaneous burst of financial relief” to the millions across the country who are struggling through the pandemic.

Coronavirus is keeping people away from work and forcing people’s business to close down – but it is also reducing demand for people who want to go out and work.

A group of more than 500 politicians and academics worldwide have urged governments to introduce the scheme.

They cited the “unprecedented times” as needing extraordinary measures to ensure people can still stay afloat and make ends meet.

An array of financial measures have been implemented by the Government already in an effort to keep businesses running and help people get the necessities they need.


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The facts about the UK and UBI

Within the UK’s population of around 66million, 50 million would most probably be eligible to receive a UBI.

This means it would cost the Government more than £50billion monthly to pay out UBI to citizens.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted UBI was among the things being considered to help out the country.

Mr Johnson said he would be willing to sit down and discuss the scheme with then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Blackford said the British Government needed to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crash where “banks were bailed out – but ordinary people were not”.

Mr Blackford added: “Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it’s happening today.

“Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

“We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

“In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out but ordinary people were not.

“Prime Minister, you have it within your power to protect people’s incomes and provide them with peace of mind.”

The Prime Minister responded: “I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

“It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one – whatever their income – should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

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