Universal Basic Income - the way to a healthier nation! pt1


Note: this post is written with a UK centric view, for the collective health of all it’s citizens, however can be easily adapted more generally for other countries too.

This article is part 1 of the series Universal Basic Income - the way to a healthier nation!, as well as being part of a wide ranging series of Grown Up Chats articles coming to you in future!

This part of the Series focuses on the what it is and the why we need it. The 2nd part will focus on some elements around how we could look at implementing it going forward, as well as how it could potentially integrate with or replace other benefits. Part 3 will look at what level this realistically needs to be at & how it can be funded. Part 4 will include additional supporting information as well as my suggested implementation plan. I expect that this will take until Christmas 2023 to collate and publish in full.

People across many areas of our society are struggling & much much more than ever before. This is an irrefutable fact which has been highlighted by the events of the last few years & only stands to potentially get worse as we push further into this decade, unless something changes and much sooner than is currently planned. This is why we are seeing crime rates rise particularly with shoplifting & burglary increasingly being in the news.

Businesses are struggling, they are losing staff to competitors or getting rid of staff in cost cutting measures, perhaps because they’ve lost clients/customers or recently their operating costs have skyrocketed, and in the worst cases they are going under & stopping trading, left, right and centre. It’s a dangerously stressful time for many business owners right now & and many others are putting off starting one because of the current climate. At least that’s what it looks like to me around the smaller sized businesses. Yes some seem to be doing great, however on balance things are at best turbulent right now.

A recent example of one out of the many that have either gone under or nearly gone under in the news recently has been the retailer Wilko’s.(I couldn’t be 100% sure what is happening since I started this article, but will update when I understand better) If this happens, this will end up impacting so many families and those dependant on that chain, whether shoppers, or those working for the chain. Just imagine the outcry if McDonalds, Tesco, or any other bigger employers were to go bust. The knock on effect to the government and therefore the taxpayer, will make us all poorer, and potentially lead to many unnecessary and avoidable situations that have downstream impact on health, therefore costing more in the longer term in health, social care and other required supporting costs as people grow older.

Councils are struggling too, with Birmingham Council having recently declared itself effectively bankrupt, which is not the first nor will it be the last to say so either.

We also know that from the pandemic governments stepped in to prevent a global depression, by issuing schemes like the UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) (also known as the Furlough scheme) during the pandemic which we know saved jobs, saved businesses from going under & more importantly kept families able to mostly able to meet all their financial obligations, saving more jobs and businesses from going bust.

With that in mind, I long before now came to the conclusion that governments all over the world must begin to act now and implement something similar to the furlough scheme, but bigger & fairer. That would be a Universal Basic Income system, a system we are already trialling in England, have trials ongoing in Wales however this needs to be something not only UK Wide & needs to be government backed to prevent further downfall of the UK & to lift millions out of poverty.

Please also note that as I write this, I myself am one of those that has found himself drop from earning quite a bit above the UK median July 2023 data for weekly earnings of £663, which is roughly £34500 annually, or roughly £2290 take home to being on our incredibly out of date, unfair, unsuitable benefits system, one that I’ve had the unfortunate need to call on multiple times since I was 16. The data here unfortunately is definitely skewed by those earning in the higher amounts, so is not really a great representation I do not think, especially with National minimum wage at £10.42 an hour and at 40 hours a week gives a possible annual take home of £18760 or £1563.36 monthly. These figures where gathered from the awesome The Salary Calculator site.

But alas, I am not earning that & find myself in what can only be classed as a state of poverty & as I blogged about on my own blog about A few weeks of downtime - getting signed off sick due to stress, this article is only a slice of what’s been getting at me, and perhaps in future more will come out.

So Why Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

The short answer is that, basically, from my research as well as my personal lived experiences since turning 16 (so 17 years ago now) & listening to so many others from across different parts of not only the UK population but also Internationally too, there is a need to implement Universal Basic Income systems to replace existing ageing and complex benefit systems. This must happen before 2030, but we realistically needed this to happen prior to 2020.

The pandemic showed us, in excruciating detail that there is far too many areas where we, are badly failing our citizens, whether employed, self-employed, a business owner, unemployed, whether through personal choice or not like due to employers choosing to often not to to support disabled people or holding other discriminatory views (which is Illegal under the Equality Act 2010 ) that places barriers in the way that stop people from contributing to society via some form of work. Though it’s to be noted that you can contribute to society without earning an income through paid work, whether that be by voluntary work, or being a carer. Either way we can and should do more to support peoples overall wellbeing, which importantly comprises of all different types of health, Mental, Physical & Financial, which all have cross dependencies to each other that impact how content we are in life.

The big argument against it, is that it supposedly disincentives people from working, which I’m sorry to say, is complete and utter bullshit & in fact actually would incentivise the mass majority of people to pursue their goals and dreams by working on the things they see important, starting their own businesses with less fear of failure and much much more.

What benefits will this bring?

All the below points are ones that when, not if, but when we do this, will move us to a much needed longer term move to Wellbeing driven economy, which use wellbeing metrics, which whilst ONS does collect this data, I don’t think they are getting a wide enough data set as some of those metrics seem to be well off the mark to what I have seen and heard over the years, and as such I will be following up with ONS & my MP on how this data is collected as I know for a fact that as a statistician if you only get data from just 10% of the population that know this data is being asked form, then likely you aren’t getting an accurate picture. But we know that wellbeing metrics as well as other typical metrics like GDP, help us better understand the true health of a nation.

So when, not if we do this, but when we do this, we will reap so many rewards from it as a society, and includes for a number of reasons

  • Immensely positive impact on mental & physical health.
    • Improves health and reduces long term issues due to stress induced illnesses.
  • Helps in reducing loss of productivity at home and in work.
    • Actually would lead to a rise in productivity, especially in conjunction with new technology offerings, when used correctly.
  • Allows the majority of people to actually afford a good healthy life by ensuring a good standard quality of life.
    • Stops many adults, parents and children starving unnecessarily.
  • Allows for more spending in local, regional, national & international economies, creating opportunity for more & often highly sustainable jobs all around.
  • Gives financial stability and security backed by the government, which helps both individuals and businesses keeping up with their financial commitments, even when things are difficult & as a mechanism would if costed in the right way, actually stop us having to do horrific bail outs like the banks in the financial crisis of 2008.
    • Keeps more people in their homes, & even will help many be able to able to end up buying their own home.
    • Keeps more people in jobs, even if in a reduced capacity from Full Time hours for short or longer periods of time.
      • Helps out when businesses are undergoing financial strains due to external & not easily predictable shockwaves that affect their businesses, like the recent energy cost crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and the immense shockwave that the pandemic brought to the world.
    • Long term helps in helping in maintain payments that reduce any debts either may have.
      • This reduces stress immensely, and is an area that we can do more to prevent these issues from occurring & also prevents unnecessary potential debt collector visits or from court enforce bailiff visits.
    • Provides room for many to be able to save instead of borrow particularly at high rates or be more able to borrow at lower rates if needed.
    • Could even be used by claimers as a short term boost to finances as opposed to being a regular permanent allowance, so to speak. I will cover this in more depth in a later part of the series.
    • Gives great potential for individuals to invest in themselves or others. Or donate to the many charities that we have leading much important research in areas like Cancer, Dementia, Infectious diseases, supporting the elderly or victims of abuse etc etc.
  • Gives more chances for individuals & businesses to continue their own learning & development plans, without building up debt in the process.
    • Especially useful for those that may be looking for a change in careers.
  • In the long term leads to being more self sustainable and becomes more cost effective for all taxpayers.
  • Reduces heavy burdens on individuals & businesses that are struggling to get by.
  • It provides protection against loss of earnings due to illness, protecting employees from employers that have poor/non-existent sick pay policies.
  • It allows for protection against a number of local, national and even some global events.
  • Leads to a more productive, profitable, manageable, maintainable and attractive nation for citizens.
  • Allows for all new parents to decide to take additional time off if they so choose beyond their current legal rights. Rights that should be improved especially for fathers.
  • Provides enough to cover for most, a good quality of life, one that allows for not needing to live with financial worries each month & gives spending power to individuals, which fuels local, national and international economies.
  • Boosts opportunity for new small businesses in the economy.
  • Gives opportunity for small & medium business to leverage part time workers where they perhaps couldn’t have done so before.
  • Reduces crime by giving an opportunity for stability to those that have struggled with this in the past & may have turned to crime, either as a one off or be a repeat offender.
    • Doesn’t stop people from working at all & actually gives opportunity for people to take on a part time role, a job share or a venture as a small business owner.
    • Enables the reduction and eventual removal of complex to understand & hard to access, costly to run and maintain, benefits systems, with a simpler fairer & cheaper to run model.

Closing comments

I think that this is more than enough for this initial post in the series but I am looking forward to getting this series written up.

Also please bear in mind, I would much rather do worthwhile paid work than be relying on benefits, but for when its needed the system has to be fit for purpose and ours isn’t and hasn’t been for many many years.