SB Jones writes and dabbles in drawing and painting. She also dabbles in deep-space astronomy and astro-physics, botany and other natural history. As well as comets and planets, she loves trees and bats, and all sorts of music. Some Nene Quirer readers might remember that she also rings bells.
Although there has been an increase in those who have heard of a citizen’s or basic Income, it is often dismissed without the benefit of much thought.
And this is a pity, for if anything can reduce poverty whilst treating everybody fairly – literally everybody – it is a citizen’s Income. Not least, it is one of the most effective antidotes to poverty, both in its immediate effect and, even more potently, in its potential.
A Citizen’s Income would be an unconditional payment given to all citizens, no matter what their personal circumstances. The Citizen’s Income Trust have worked on schemes that would be cost neutral; meaning that it would not necessitate large tax increases to fund it. For it is the administration and policing of the current system which counts for a large amount of its cost. A Citizen’s Income would not need to be policed for fraud. Every individual would receive the payment, whether they worked or not, and it would not depend upon the make-up of a household. Full tax would be paid.
Would people still work? Yes! The income would not be enough to give anybody without work over the long-term a good quality of life. In fact, it is likely that the scheme would generate more work. For as things stand, an unemployed person is immediately penalised for taking on any work – they are subject to pound-for-pound withdrawal from their benefits, usually making taking on small jobs unworthwhile, and government top-up’s only take effect if the work is close to full-time hours. This all-or-nothing approach places a real barrier to employment and, equally, also hinders employers.
Many small businesses would like to take on workers for a few hours. And a citizen’s income would make this worthwhile to the employee. It is this that could also be the key to lifting many households out of poverty. For it could simply be that a few hours work a week, gained by all those who work in a household, would be enough to lift the household out of poverty.
Small businesses and even individuals could generate more jobs: the small business owner might use their own citizen’s income to employ somebody. Those in full-time and long-term work might take on a gardener or cleaner, or make more trips to the theatre. Or they might save it, take a year out of the work-place and undergo more education and training.
Although the Swiss rejected the idea in their referendum in 2016, this may have been because the amount suggested was much more than the £60-£100 per week being suggested in this country. The scheme has been successfully trialled in India. I’ve yet to hear a good case against it and it has advocates from the whole political spectrum: left to right.
But if anyone can argue differently, I’d be interested to hear.