Future Generations Commissioner calls for Universal Basic Income to rebuild Wales’ economy

Market Day in Rhyl. Picure by Joe Blundell (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales has called for a Universal Basic Income as part of a plan to rebuild Wales’ economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as a YouGov poll found eight out of 10 people would prefer the government to prioritise health and wellbeing over economic growth during the coronavirus crisis.

Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe said a Universal Basic Income would keep people out of poverty and reduce inequality.

Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is a periodic payment delivered to all on an individual basis without means test or work requirement.

“Universal Basic Income – something that might have seemed far-fetched only a few months ago –  has now become an urgent need,” Sophie Howe said.

“UBI is a very real solution to helping people out of poverty and aiding the economy, while reducing society’s gaping inequalities which have grown deeper during this crisis.”

She pointed to Scotland where the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had said that the crisis “strengthens the case immeasurably” for UBI.

Ms Sturgeon called for a “serious discussion” with the UK government over the scheme after research from Reform Scotland suggested all adults in Scotland should be given £100 a week.

Wales should lead a joint initiative of devolved nations pushing the UK Government to deliver Universal Basic Income, Sophie Howe said.

Sophie Howe – The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is photographed at the Hay Festival in Hay-on-Wye in Brecknockshire, South Wales.

“Everyone should be paid enough to care for themselves and their families in a time of crisis – if Scotland can discuss this seriously – why can’t we?

“It’s time for a new approach that reflects our complex economy – one that urgently protects the millions of people who desperately need financial security right now.

“The money could support many essential workers and volunteers so they can continue their vital work in keeping the country going – and it could help ease some of the stress on households experiencing extreme difficulties.

“It’s also an opportunity to look at financial packages in general and how we might be able to encourage businesses to give something back in return for support.

“We know that poverty is the biggest driver of ill-health. We need  a system that supports every single person through this crisis or we risk worsening its effects for years to come.”

 

‘Political courage’

Finland has just announced the results of its two-year Universal Basic Income study, where 2,000 unemployed people aged 25 to 57 were given an unconditional, non-means-tested 560 Euros per month.

The study found people were happier, had greater trust in others and higher levels of confidence in the future. They also worked slightly more than those on unemployment benefits and reported better cognitive functioning.

Head researcher, Minna Ylikännö, said UBI could help alleviate stress in a time of uncertainty and Scotland has explored a pilot of the scheme.

Sophie Howe’s Future Generations Report 2020, published this month, recommends UBI as part of a move towards ‘well-being economics’.

The report also advocates piloting a four-day working week as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and keep people well, and an end to GDP as the measure of the strength of an economy.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

“If we want an economy that works for everyone, and a society where everyone knows they have a stake, it’s time for politicians to put GDP on the backburner and focus on well-being,” Sophie Howe said.

“COVID is inviting us to focus on what we value. GDP doesn’t value the vital work that has been highlighted by the crisis – the unpaid work done by women, the huge community of volunteers and those on a low wage.

“A healthy economy should deliver a fair distribution of health and wealth and well-being, while protecting the planet’s resources for future generations and other species. That’s a more realistic version of what prosperity looks like.

“Wage poverty, racial disparity, imbalances in property ownership and quality of housing, job insecurity along with deep structural inequalities in the economy have been laid bare by COVID-19.

“We’re being presented with an opportunity to enact change, but it needs bold, collaborative, inclusive thinking and political courage. We have a chance now to remedy past failures in the weeks, months and years ahead.

“Investing in a low carbon society with green jobs, cleaner air and improved health has to be central to recovery.”

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Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Reactionary Labour hijacking other peoples’ bright ideas. They were the architects of UK’s most complicated Benefits regime until Tories took over and cranked up the volume even further. If on the other hand Sophie is serious then let’s see her put in the hard yards on this one and not tail off to chase some other pet project in a matter of weeks.

Alun
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Alun

Fair points but that’s how bright ideas work. If no-one gets to converted to them nothing happens. Credit to Sophie for pushing this now.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Deep but passing interest ? We wait and see, but I ain’t holding my breath on this.

Grayham Jones
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It’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 a Free Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Nigel Bull
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Nigel Bull

Yes a free Wales that can afford a UBi without a subsidy from England., its a good idea…………What day is it I have just woken up!

Annie Byniaeth
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Annie Byniaeth

Hi, what subsidy is this?
Thanks,
Dryweryn.

Carolyn Jones
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Carolyn Jones

I support the idea of Universal Basic Income, but the problem is that the poorest and most vulnerable may end up still being messed over. Private landlords will raise their rents to take all that guaranteed income. Rental housing has to be taken out of the private sector. It’s a broken model.

Neil Anderson
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Neil Anderson

I welcome Sophie Howe’s support for a UBI, though I would only support it as part of a wider settlement. A UBI alone would lead to the rapid monetisation of everything and a consequent reinforcement of the capitalist model. Instead, I favour a package approach to all basic needs. Universal Basic Welfare (UBW) recognises the right of all people to free, life-long access to health, social care, education and broadband. It would also encompass subsidised access to shelter, food and public transportation. Additional and generous support would be provided for those with special needs. A cash component would be included,… Read more »

Minydon
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Minydon

Nothing is for free, somebody has to pay! Without a strong economy there will be nothing to pay for a strong health service or benefits. Oh to live in Utopia.

Ceri
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Ceri

Maybe a National industrial profit surplus/natural resource backed dividend? I worry that a top-down universal stipend, although an ideal safety net for the most needy, stifles innovation and dissuades external investment. Would love to see the concerns answered by data-backed reasoning though.

Mathew Rees
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Mathew Rees

UBI is only moral if linked to universal basic employment.

Neil Anderson
Guest
Neil Anderson

Is hungry children ‘moral’?

Mathew Rees
Guest
Mathew Rees

Are people who choose to have children when they can’t afford them moral?

j humphrys
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j humphrys

Some gripes in Finland were from people saying UBI didn’t reduce the unemployment rate. But here’s the thing: the benefits are that the unemployed felt less stress, which increased their children’s happiness and confidence, which meant less visits to the doctor and so on.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

It also showed a relatively negative correlation to mental health outcomes – many people want to be famous/successful and felt that with UB,I they could pursue their dream of being a movie star/singer/influencer. When the desired outcome isn’t met, they spiral into a depression linked to failure and/or loss of purpose. It undoubtedly had positive sociological effects too. Maybe an Andrew Yang/Alaska style dividend as opposed to a UBI model could be a real option post-indy. Before? really tough to see it happen, let alone work. Open to giving it a go though.

j humphrys
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j humphrys

I never saw that in the Finnish press. Please show origin.

Ceri
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Ceri

I’m struggling to find it – it was a video diary from a few Finns who’d been involved with the pilot scheme (BBC, I think?). The UBI seemed to exacerbate the mental health concerns in one person from the 5 interviewees. This is obviously not a scientific analysis re mental health, only post-hoc, anecdotal data gathering (well-being improved etc). From first principals, I assume that it would be a net positive, but may be a compounding factor for certain mental health concerns. These types of enforced sociological changes rarely achieve the desired result. Further, there are other economic questions too… Read more »

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

I think it’s worth looking into, there is too much emphasise on individual productivity, what can I get from this person, what is their value to me or the country? No focus on that person’s quality of life, in many respects no thought about what’s best for that person at all. Ironically with quality of life you will have a happier, healthier and so potentially more productive person – if that person does do some sort of work too. Look after the employee the employee will look afrer the business, look after the citizen, the citizen will look after the… Read more »

vicky moller
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vicky moller

paid in a currency that is valid for businesses signed up to it, an internal currency for Welsh owned businesses which benefit people and nature so not valid arguably at the bookies or petrol station sadly.

Dan B
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Dan B

Means-testing pre-emptively eliminates people from additional support.
UBI retrospectively eliminates additional support.
We are not good at predicting the future so a retrospective approach would be better in this instance.

Josh Foster
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Josh Foster

Sorry, but UBI is bonkers. Economically illiterate political appointees should err on the side of caution before calling for such far reaching policy prescriptions. A fag packet calculation will show any moderately numerate individual what a monumental cost this would be for Wales, and indy supporters should be cognisant of the fact that our perceived budget deficit is already the biggest gun in the unionist arsenal. Neil Anderson – PLEASE don’t listen to Richard Murphy. He knows not what he does. An UBI would be pro-cyclical, would cost an inordinate amount of money, and without wider reforms to the tax… Read more »

Mike Murphy
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Mike Murphy

Gwlad have advocated UBI as one of our key flagship policies and have calculated that if it is introduced with a flat tax rate it would be almost cost neutral!!!!

This is because it would replace most welfare benefits and basic income tax allowances – the greatest benefit accruing to the low-paid.

Josh Foster
Guest
Josh Foster

Well, that depends on the level of the UBI and the level of the flat tax, doesn’t it? If it’s high enough to make any difference, then it’s frankly going to be too expensive. But you’ll have plenty of bums.

It doesn’t change the fact that it’s pro-cyclical.

It doesn’t change the fact that without very significant changes in the tax system, the benefit wouldn’t accrue to the poor at all, but to their landlords or lenders.

Pie in the sky nonsense.