The latest news from Cafestudy

Universal Basic Income

The latest news from Cafestudy

Posted by: Caféstudy

9th Feb 2021 12:39pm

Following the pandemic, a new poll by the Green Institute showed 58 per cent of Australians now support a Universal Basic Income (UBI). This new research indicates the lockdowns and widespread reliance on various welfare payments last year has increased support for a UBI program.

Stanford University's Basic Income Lab defines UBI as a cash payment given to all members of a community on a regular basis regardless of income level and with no strings attached. However, there are various interpretations with differing levels of support dependent on income being tested around the world.

We asked our Caféstudy members if they were in favour of a Universal Basic Income in Australia. If so, did they think it should be for everyone, regardless of personal or household income? and if not, at what level of personal income did they think it should be stopped?

A pandemic perspective

The pandemic and events of the last year have greatly shaped people’s attitudes in favour of new solutions such as a Universal Basic Income program in Australia, with many stating it’s not something they were in favour of prior to Covid. Some also liken UBI to the new JobSeeker/JobKeeper subsidies the government put in place to help Australians in need.

"In the past I probably would have resisted implementing a UBI, but since the world has been hit by Covid, and many people find themselves out of work as a result, maybe the time has come, and it’s perfect timing to introduce a UBI."

"This will work a bit like Jobkeeper does now. It allows people to live and send their kids to school, weekend sport and school excursions as long as the rate is sufficient.”

Pros > Cons

Although respondents agree there will be many challenges with implementing a program like UBI, in their eyes, pulling people out of poverty, decreasing homelessness and helping unemployed people is more important and far outweighs the possible cons we will face. 

"While I acknowledge that there are various political and economic complications that arise from the payment of UBI, I believe the positive benefits that a UBI would bring to the welfare of members of the Australian community outweighs the negative effects; it is also worth mentioning that these negative effects could be minimised through careful planning of the UBI and other economic policies.”

"There was a study done last year that said a Universal Basic Income would lift half a million people above the poverty line. Unemployment is going to remain high for some time, and many many people are on casual, temporary, contract and underemployed, this puts people at a lot of risk of being homeless… Just because you have work does not mean you are making ends meet because rent has risen, and cost of living in general has risen. Wages have been stagnated for a long time.”

Means testing debate

Most members agreed means testing would be the most divisive but essential part of a UBI program but there was little agreement on where it would be capped (if at all); but all agreed substantial research would need to be undertaken to determine what a ‘livable wage’ is, which will aid developing fair policy.

"I think it should be like other government payments and begin to phase out from say, $40k per year. Completely phased out at $60k."

"Obviously I don’t think very wealthy individuals need it, but it would be difficult to say where the line would be drawn."

"I think it depends on people's circumstances and their attitude. For example if someone is earning $100k a year and has no children, that is a lot of money and they should not get UBI because they don't need it."

"I don't think I am qualified enough to suggest a personal income level at which UBI should stopped."

Risk and reliance 

Some respondents disagree with the idea completely with concerns about inflation and feel that it would actually increase the cost of living. Whilst others felt it would also increase our reliance on the government or push us toward socialism.

"Will this prohibit the farmer or the small businesses from flourishing and if so will that lead to total government reliance?"

"If everybody was given, for example, $1000 per month UBI would the cost of living rise by that amount thus cancelling out the benefit and essentially devaluing the currency?"

"Personally I would not support Universal Basic Income in Australia as socialist policies have flaws. I think it would be the reason the government needs to both broaden and increase the GST rate, which again I am not in favour”

So what does this mean?

Respondents do have a number of reservations about a Universal Basic Income program and the obvious challenges that would come with implementing such a program including means testing, feasibility, reliance on government and risk. 

Despite this, it is clear 2020 has shaped many responses as people acknowledge the vast impact the pandemic has had on every citizen across the country. With many people out of work, job vacancies at an all time low and the cost of living increasing, everyone agrees that no one in Australia should live below the poverty line and we need to find a solution to ensure this no longer happens.

The sheer magnitude of societal challenges we all face coming out of this pandemic has pushed people to think outside of what’s considered normal and to look for alternative solutions to achieve a more equitable future for all.

Comments 8

  • 7th Jun 2023 07:06pm

I can't see how UBI would negatively impact small businesses, it would mean that there are more customers for small businesses as people would be able to buy things that they would go without and there is more money to circulate through the economy. I think that in fact that the cost to the public would be lower than the current messy system, there will be a reduced amount of petty crime, a reduced cost of policing as people do not need to commit minor crimes to get enough money to survive, we would also have lower cost and demand pressure on the health system as people would be able to afford to feed and house themselves with greater security. I think that it should be perhaps linked to a form of income card, that does not allow for pokie or alcohol or drug purchases but is not only tied to big supermarkets but can be used at small stores and farmers markets. Given that there are so few jobs and usually so many excess applicants, the current new start system is a total disconnect from reality, especially when the government insists on bringing so many unskilled people with poor language skills from India into the country. it should also be linked to a reformed health and mental health sector, extended servicing and a limited, and carefully regulated decriminalisation of certain social drugs with effective safeguards in place. Again this will actually stop a lot of the petty crime related drains on both healthcare and justice sectors in OZ

  • 12th Sep 2021 09:07am

While I support the concept in general as there is a need to address the income disparity in Australia, I have a lot of the same reservations regarding implementation, removal or phasing out of other benefits and inflation. One other question I have regards funding and I think that a a determination by government to ensure that multi national corporation pay their fair share of tax on income derived from operations in Australia would generate a large enough tax base to pay for a realistic UBI.

  • 17th Jul 2021 02:53am

I think that a universal basic income would be to balance the very big difference between poor and rich and would give dignity to those who really need this income.

  • 7th Jun 2021 04:20pm

So money for nothing? NO WAY. Work for it.

  • 7th Jun 2023 07:12pm
So money for nothing? NO WAY. Work for it.

Although that is assuming that there is work and opportunities for people to take it up. Whilst there are multi generational families dependent upon welfare, there are also many people who are willing to work but there are few job openings especially in the regions. You can't work if no companies are offering employment. And that means meaningful employment, not phone phishing, chugging, commission sales, food delivery and etc, but actual jobs that offer future development and long term security!

  • 25th Mar 2021 06:47pm

It would be next to impossible to institute a Universal Basic Income, mainly because what is enough to 'just get by' in one country would be considered a fortune in another, and so jealousy among countries would be even worse than it is now!

  • 18th Feb 2021 10:17pm

If everyone is given a Universal Basic Income to meet the cost of living, as someone above mentioned... would this not just increase the cost of living? If it wouldn't increase the cost of living then I have the following thoughts.

Firstly, if everyone receives the UBI, then who is actually funding it? One can simply not just print more money to make sure everyone can afford to live. It has to come from somewhere. If it's increased taxes on wealthy or increased taxes in general then that would defeat the purpose of a UBI altogether.

Also, if everyone got a UBI, regardless if they are working or not, then a lot of people who are finishing school, earning minimum wage or just working to make ends meet would probably stop working. Why work when you can get free money and afford to live?

Another thing would be means testing. I agree that you would need to determine a livable wage. However, with inflation and the cost of living always changing and people losing jobs/income etc how do you constantly measure and prove who has enough money or a livable wage? Yes, you could have asset testing etc like Centrelink but we all know how flawed this system is.

I also, agree with the person who said it depends on the person's circumstances. Like someone who earns well over the cost of living, shouldn't receive the UBI. But then you run into the issue of if they don't receive it, why should they pay for it? Similarly, this is the biggest gripe with Centrelink currently... People complain their tax money goes to people to sit around and do nothing.

Overall, though, we wouldn't need a UBI if the following happened:

♦ Minimum wage was at the cost of living
♦ Wages increased with inflation (I know jobs that don't give pay rises and you're on the same wage for over 5 years despite cost of living increasing)
♦ Government's spent the UBI amount on creating jobs (If more people were employed then that would solve the need for the UBI)
♦ If Centrelink rose by inflation and was correctly tested/monitored then we wouldn't need a UBI as those in need would receive enough to live on until they received employment.

Therefore, in my opinion, disregarding that this could increase the cost of living... there is no need for a UBI. The government just needs to fix certain measures already put in place. As mentioned centrelink, job security, wages, minimum wage etc.

  • 17th Feb 2021 06:26pm

What a quandary! We need a group of people from a variety of incomes [from high to none] to get together and put forward a submission to whichever Government is in power at the time of the submission. The group could start with someone from one of the wealthiest people in this country, and move down the income spectrum to include perhaps a farmer [with animals] and a farmer who only does crops, an orchardist, someone with no kids, someone with more than 5 kids, a person who has been 'let go'. from his/her job, a pensioner, a disabled person, a couple in their 20's who. in spite of their scholarly achievements, still haven't got a job, and some school leavers who cannot afford to go to University, or TAFE, and cannot even get a job at Maccas or KFC, plus a variety of those who look after the 'have not's - the people in society who need help to survive - ie Salvation Army and other such helpers. Maybe if a group like this got together something worthwhile might be produced? Parliament obviously does not appear to have the variety of circumstances that these people would bring to the table. What do you think?