Monday, March 21, 2016

Labour on Universal Basic Income

Labour is following the Greens in investigating a Universal Basic Income:

A proposal to pay every adult Kiwi more than $200 a week as a "universal income" from the Government is being considered by the Labour Party.

A discussion paper from the party has mooted the idea of a universal income, where every adult New Zealander would receive $11,000 a year ($211 a week) in exchange for scrapping many current welfare payments.

The proposal is part of the party's Future of Work Commission, a project to look at the impact of new technologies on careers and the workforce.

Good. I've long argued that a UBI should be a key goal for the left, and its good to see Labour thinking the same way. And their discussion paper linked above gives a good summary of the available evidence and makes a strong case. By disconnecting work from survival, a UBI would allow us to find a better balance between work and leisure. It would address the changing nature of work, which has seen jobs become ever more insecure and poorly-paid, and give people a cushion against frequent redundancy as well as the confidence to risk entrepreneurship. It would be fair, progressive, broadly affordable as a replacement for existing social support systems, and has positive health and education benefits. Why wouldn't you want to investigate this policy?

The discussion paper suggests paying close attention to overseas pilots in Utrecht and possibly Switzerland and Finland. More importantly, it suggests running a multi-year pilot in New Zealand so we can see what the effects of this policy are. That seems sensible and reasonable. Again, why wouldn't you want to do this?

(The right's answer, via Kiwiblog, is to cry "unaffordable". Gareth Morgan already dealt with that one years ago, and in any case that just makes it a question of priorities. The real answer, of course, is that they are committed to widespread economic insecurity for the benefit of the few. And that is simply not a morally supportable position).