New Zealand’s Best Kept Secret? This Week is International Basic Income Week

September 14th to 21st is the 8th International Basic Income Week. And this may well be the only place you will read about it!

The motto for the 8th International Basic Income Week is “UBI: a safety net for life”. The basic tenets of an unconditional basic income are that it is:

  • Universal: Every person, irrespective of age, descent, place of residence, profession, etc. will be entitled to receive this allocation.
  • Individual: Everyone has the right to UBI on an individual basis as this is the only way to ensure privacy and to prevent control over other individuals. UBI will be independent of marital status, cohabitation or household configuration, or of the income or property of other household or family members.
  • Unconditional: As a human right UBI shall not depend on any preconditions, whether an obligation to take paid employment, to be involved in community service, or to behave according to traditional gender roles. Nor will it be subject to income, savings, or property limits.
  • High enough: The amount should provide for a decent standard of living, which meets society’s social and cultural standards in the country concerned. It should prevent material poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and to live in dignity. UBI should not replace the compensatory welfare state but rather complete and transform it into an emancipatory welfare system.

Technological advances mean we face a future where there will not be paid employment for everyone. And we are putting intolerable pressure on the environment in the form of pollution, carbon emissions, and depletion of resources by churning out products that no one really needs to achieve the holy grail of ever-increasing economic growth. But ever-increasing economic growth is unsustainable, and changes to the economic system will shortly be forced upon us. Again, the result will be fewer paid jobs.

An unconditional basic income at, for example, the rate of single superannuation would share the collective wealth so that no one is disadvantaged by the inevitable changes in the economic system. And a UBI would improve everyone’s lifestyle. For example anyone could decide to work fewer hours in paid employment and do some voluntary work, pursue the arts or further study, do research, start a small business. This in turn would spread paid employment opportunities amongst more people.

“In a world where work is characterised by increasing flexibility, insecurity, and precarity, UBI not only reduces the fears which make people susceptible to hate and violence against “others”; UBI also sparks economic growth where it is badly needed, while paving a way towards degrowth where that is necessary. UBI enables ecological sustainability, guaranteeing life on Earth in the future.” (basicincomeweek.org)

What’s not to like? New Zealand already has a partial UBI in the form of national superannuation, and used to have an unconditional family benefit until the 1980s as well. At least let’s put it on table and talk about it.

International Unconditional Basic Income Week; spread the word.