Universal Basic Income
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.