Mark Drakeford, Wales’ new First Minister, announced soon after the Senedd elections in May that the government will launch a basic income trial in the country. As Basic Income News mentioned over a month ago, the support for trialing basic income in the country has greatly increased and Drakeford has confirmed that a pilot will be launched soon.
Jane Hutt, recently appointed as Minister for Social Justice, will be in charge of the supervision of the project. There is still no definitive information regarding the funding and date of implementation of the pilot, but the government’s commitment is firm. “A basic income pilot is one of the specific responsibilities of our new social justice minister. It will have to be carefully designed, it will draw on the experience of attempted pilots in Scotland, but I have a very long standing interest in basic income”, Drakeford said. “We’ll do it on a cross-party basis. There are 25 members of the Senedd in different parties who have expressed an interest in it,” he added.
The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howes, said that the launching of the pilot shows an “incredibly significant commitment by the First Minister to tackling Wales’ poverty and health inequalities,” and that this trial shows that small countries can lead big policy changes.
Jonathan Rhys Williams, from UBI Lab Wales, said that “this is a huge moment for the basic income movement in the UK and around the world.”
Over two thirds of Wales is in favour of a basic income trial in the country. The poll, carried out by Survation and commissioned by Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, included over a thousand respondents.
Ahead of the country’s general election in early May, Future Generations is pressuring the Welsh government towards implementing more progressive measures destined to protect the economic and labor interests of the younger generations of the country, which have been remarkably affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these policies they included a petition to start a basic income trial.
According to Howe, a basic income could be highly beneficial for the Welsh. Howe states that a basic income could successfully address the issues that the welfare stated has failed to tackle (increase in poverty, automation and unstable jobs). Howe claims that “a basic income could be that stronger safety net which keeps people from falling through the cracks of support now and in the future.”
The think tank Autonomy is working alongside Future Generations to make the basic income trial happen. Will Stronge, co-director of Autonomy, claims that is critical to provide financial security to everyone, especially in these times of crisis. “The time has come for a universal basic income in Wales”, Stronge demands.
Calls for basic income in Wales are not new and Future Generations and Autonomy are not the only ones demanding the implementation. In 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plaid Cymru, the biggest nationalist party in the country, called for an emergency UBI and, more recently, the party has expressed support towards a cultural basic income to support culture. On a local level, the councils of Swansea and Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) have passed motions in support of piloting the trial, while the leader of the council of Cardiff has expressed interest towards the measure.