January 5, 2017 at 4:29 pm #6537
A scheme to give every citizen a universal basic income (UBI), regardless of whether or not they work, is set to be piloted by two Scottish councils this year.
Labour-run Glasgow and Fife councils are currently designing trial schemes following meetings held late last year. It has not yet been announced what level the basic income will be set at, but the councils are to proceed with the pilots, subject to sufficient funding being secured.
Under UBI, welfare benefits such as Jobseekers’ Allowance, working tax credits and state pensions are replaced by a single, unconditional flat-rate payment, regardless of whether the recipient is in work, with any money earned above this is subject to taxation.
Glasgow is the most deprived local authority area in Scotland, with a third of all children in the city said to be living in poverty, whilst Fife has been identified as having high levels of “hidden” or in-work poverty, with research by the TUC revealing more than 34 per cent of workers in the north-east of Fife earn less than the living wage.
Interest in universal basic income has been growing in Scotland, particularly since the Scottish National Party passed a motion in support of the policy at its conference last year. There have been successful pilot schemes in Africa and India, and the idea is becoming more popular in Europe, with a pilot currently running in the Netherlands and another set to launch in Finland this year.
Many anti-poverty groups in the UK are in favour of UBI, with supporters believing it would create a fairer, less complex system than the current mix of welfare benefits as well as building a more family-friendly society which recognises that “work” includes being a carer.
A referendum on whether or not to introduce UBI in wealthy Switzerland was resoundingly rejected last year – but a recent poll in the UK found two thirds were in favour of the idea in principle.
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