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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”