Recently I was in the live audience for The BBC Big Question Debate. The topic discussed was:
Giving everyone a basic income is the future.
The debate was truly thought provoking and light dawned. It was an idea that must be right. More importantly, I began to see why us Oldies can provide the answer to one of the problems people in the audience raised.
The proposal that there should be a Basic income or Universal wage for all people has been around for many years.
It means that everyone would be given a minimum amount monthly, enough to cover absolute basics and with no strings attached. After that you can earn as much as you like.
In effect it abolishes the means tested Welfare Benefits system.
The key speaker in the debate was Guy Standing, who made it very clear that the appalling stress and anxiety caused by our current system has totally negative effect. If you saw ‘I Daniel Blake‘ you will understand the mental torture of job centre interviews and sanctions. Moreover it eliminates the present problem of the demotivating Poverty Trap, where you loose benefit if you take casual or part time work. Even better, if you wish to study, need to be a carer or just want to try being a sportsperson, an artist or an actor you would have a basic income.
You will immediately ask, as the debaters did. How will this be paid for? The key answer is that the Government will no longer be paying out Benefit, nor will it need the offices and bureaucracy that system entails. There will be a shortfall that has to be made up by a marginally higher tax on those who do have jobs, but there is no doubt that it can be managed if there is the political will.
A key advantage is that it allows many people to work part time who would have been penalised under the Benefit claw back system. And the evidence from Countries who are trying it out suggests that this is exactly what happens. And gives them the chance to get training and build up a CV.
Today’s world of automation increasingly allows Countries to earn its money with less manual work. We shall need less and less full time workers. The growth of part time, casual labour system will continue.
Somehow, we will need to provide all families with basic stable income and not have to subsidise industry in order to do it. The basic income/Universal wage concept does this. It is a fair way of redistributing tax monies from industry and is without the negative implications of “being on Benefit”
Finland is already using the system, so is Alaska. India has announced that it believes it is the way forward out of the poverty trap for millions in their Country and Scotland is considering a trial of it.. In that one, 2000 random people in Glasgow, currently on Benefit will be given the same amount of money with no strings for two years and the result monitored.
An immediate thought by many is “Well, why would they work?”
Just watch TV all day? OK. So they can if that is their choice. Maybe they would paint, garden, volunteer or spend time with family. Up to them.
But if they do work they can keep what they earn and use that how they choose. The experiments so far have indicated that people do not decrease their work hours and that those who do are mainly working mothers. And possibly most importantly others not previously in work have now felt able to start part time.
Why am I saying that we Oldies should support this?
Because we are an excellent example of how it works!
The Old Age Pension is in effect a basic income! We get it no strings attached and we can if we wish watch TV and do nothing
But that isn’t so for most of us is it? We don’t do nothing.
We are a major part of the UK Economy!
Pensioners provide millions of hours of free babysitting for working parents. More millions of free caring are given for Friends, Neighbours and Family. And yet more as volunteers in hospitals, Museums, Charity shops, prisons, in schools and as governors, as workers in our country parks, RSPB, National Trust, ….Everywhere, once you start looking!
Not only that we are personally active. We love exploring, the Heritage, Tourism and Coach trip industries could not survive without us! We take part in book groups, clubs, art classes, yoga, bingo, bridge, dog walking and rambling. If you go into the countryside midweek you will see gaggle after gaggle of silver haired walkers! And not only walking, but working to maintain paths and stiles, repairing hedges, doing nature counts.
Nor does paid work necessarily stop. Many pensioners continue to work because they feel they still have a contribution to make.My taxi driver this morning is a lovely example. He told me he is 70 and has taken it up because he likes having something to do and meeting people. They enjoy it, and feel useful or maybe just want cash to visit their family in OZ…
What am I saying? That humans are not essentially lazy!
They love being active and social. Most will be creative in some way, and almost all will contribute to the community. Given freedom from basic money worries, people can and do find interesting lives and new ways of being useful.