Nearly 90% of respondents to a New Zealand-based poll stated that, assuming that the economy was strong enough to support all residents, a universal basic income (UBI) was the fairest way to ensure basic support to all who need it, according to the independent news website Scoop.
Scoop, which conducted the poll via its Hivemind system, also released a number of other results, including the following:
Ninety-four percent of respondents believe that “due to changing economic conditions we need a new system that better guarantees the welfare of the least well off and those facing insecure work conditions.”
In addition, 94% believe that “A Universal Basic Income would better facilitate and recognize unpaid work such as care for the elderly, children, disabled people or other volunteer work which benefits society.”
Eighty-eight percent of respondents believe that “We need to streamline the inefficiency and wasteful bureaucracy of our current tax and benefits systems.”
Additionally, eighty-one percent believe that “a Universal Basic Income will be necessary to protect millions of working people from the worst effects of insecure employment caused by new technology.”
Seventy-four percent of study respondents disagreed with the statement that some people “are simply lazy so providing them with a foundational amount of money to cover basic needs like food, shelter, and medical costs would mean they would just stop working or being productive altogether.”
The Hivemind polls are conducted by surveying people who chose to join a debate on the relevant topic, which is described as such on Scoop’s homepage. Scoop is a New Zealand-based site which claims to have more than 500,000 readers per month. It started nearly 20 years ago, and is owned by a not-for-profit charitable trust.
On August 30, BIEN cofounder Guy Standing will speak at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, as part of an event on economic precarity facing the Māori.
In influential books like The Precariat and A Precariat Charter, economist Guy Standing postulates the existence of a new social class that he calls the “precariat,” characterized by unstable and insecure employment. Although the status of the precariat as a “class” is a matter of some dispute among social scientists, the rise of precarious forms of employment, such as short-term and gig labor, is a commonly cited concern among proponents of basic income.
According to researchers at University of Waikato, precarity in employment is a particularly pronounced concern among the Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous Polynesian people.
We draw on recent scholarship on the precariat as an emerging social class comprised of people experiencing unstable employment, unliveable incomes, inadequate state supports, marginalisation and stigma. Our focus is on the Māori precariat, whose rights are being eroded through punitive labour and welfare reforms. While we document issues of employment, food, housing and cultural insecurities shaping precarious lives, we also develop a focus on household connections, practices and strengths.
After this research overview, Bill Cochrane (National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis) and Thomas Stubbs (lecturer in Sociology) will sketch a “demographic silhouette” of the Māori precariat, one of the key components of the “Connections and Flows” project.
These presentations will lay the ground for Standing’s lecture, in which he will discuss his theory of the precariat and its implications.
See the event flyer from the University of Waikato for details.
Two commentators will respond to Standing’s talk: Sue Bradford, a former Green MP, political activist, and founding member and former coordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty, and Keith Rankin, an economic historian who has written extensively on basic income.
The event will conclude with a 20-minute debate on the issue of whether an income guarantee policy should be targeted or universal.
Details and registration are available on the NZ Fabian Society website here.
The New Zealand Fabian Society, a policy forum devoted to exploring progressive policy and economic reforms, has been active in promoting discussion of basic income.
In February 2016, the organization initiated its 2016 series of events with a presentation titled “A UBI for New Zealand: on the cards, but is it the answer?” by Rankin and economist Susan Guthrie. (Guthrie is the coauthor of The Big Kahunaand other work with Gareth Morgan–the economist and businessman whose new political party, The Opportunity Party, has recently made a basic income for elders and young children part of its campaign platform.)
The NZ Fabian Society has also collaborated with BIEN’s affiliate Basic Income New Zealand (BINZ) by helping to organize some of events held in connection with BINZ’s basic income roadshow for Basic Income Week 2016, and supported past lectures by Guy Standing in Auckland. In March 2016, the NZ Fabian Society hosted Standing at an event in Christchurch, where he spoke on the theme of his previous book, “rentier capitalism and the coming precariat revolt” (video below).
Phil Harington, an active member of NZ Fabian Society and lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Auckland, explains that a key object of the Fabians is strengthen public confidence in progressive reforms. The arguments for basic income, he states, “make a plausible argument for rethinking the very principles we need to apply in core policy and economic creativity alongside a concern to rethink the tax side of the income pool to increase social equity and participation.”
Thanks to Phil Harington for information about the upcoming event as well as past efforts of the New Zealand Fabians.
Pictured: Gareth Morgan, leader of New Zealand’s The Opportunities Party; Credit to: Henry Cooke, Stuff
New Zealand’s The Opportunities Party (TOP), founded last year by businessman and economist Gareth Morgan, has launched a three-stage policy proposal to implement UBI for families with young children, the elderly and youth ages 18 to 23. This policy proposes youth receive $10,000 per year for the first 5 years in their transition to adulthood.
In mid-July, TOP proposed a UBI policy for youth aged 18 to 23 to support their transition into adulthood. Under the proposal, each youth would receive $10,000 per year, divided into weekly payments of $200, to support themselves during a critical period of self-development. TOP has endorsed a basic income for families with children under the age of 3 and seniors ages 65 and older. This income would be provided with no strings attached; for example, citizens would not be asked to take drug tests, submit salary information, or undergo any bureaucratic application process. TOP’s commitment to eliminate barriers to accessing UBI by youth is inspired by observations of the current system, as party leader Gareth Morgan argued, stating that “targeted welfare payments were needlessly complex, resulting in greater costs and many not claiming the benefits they were entitled to.”
The impetus for TOP’s proposed UBI policy for youth in particular is related to the fact that New Zealand has the highest rate of suicides among young people in the developing world. Additionally, youth ages 18 to 23 experience high unemployment rates. The party hopes a UBI will help alleviate financial stress and provide more comprehensive support to help youth achieve their dreams as they transition to adulthood. The UBI is meant to encourage youth to use this money in anyway they see fit, from entrepreneurship to pursuing higher education and nontraditional careers. As the economy is increasingly uncertain, the expectation is for the UBI to supplement benefits this age group already receives and provide financial support to those who may not qualify for these government benefits. For example, there are currently 20,000 youth in New Zealand who are not in employment, education or training and therefore are not receiving government benefits.
The cost to implement this policy is estimated to be $2.4 billion. The UBI would replace the first $10,000 of $245 million in benefits already received by each youth aged 18 to 23. Rather than cut existing programs for youth, TOP proposes funding the UBI from the National Party’s $2 billion Family Incomes Package, which focuses on helping low-income families with children and steep housing costs get ahead through four main benefits:
“Increasing the $14,000 income tax threshold to $22,000, and the $48,000 tax threshold to $52,000
Removing the Independent Earner Tax Credit of up to $10 a week.
Lifting the Family Tax Credit rates for young children to those of children aged 16 to 18
Increases Accomodation Supplement rates for a two person household to be $25 and $75 a week, while the maximum rates for larger households will increase between $40 and $80 a week”
The remaining $0.4 billion will come from the nation’s projected budget surplus of $1.6 billion in 2017-2018.
This UBI is anticipated to fill in the gaps in the existing support structure for youth, while also supplementing existing initiatives to support this population. For example, New Zealand’s Labour Party “plans to give everyone 3 years free tertiary education and NZ First wants to write off student loans.” Implementing TOP’s three-stage UBI for youth, seniors and young families in tandem with these additional initiatives has the potential to provide unprecedented support to these populations.
Dr. Jess Berentson-Shaw, a science researcher, has co-written a book with Dr. Gareth Morgan entitled Pennies from Heaven, which advocates implementing a UBI for lower income families. Berentson-Shaw has a PhD in Health Science from Victoria University, and works for the Morgan Foundation with Dr. Gareth Morgan, an economist and public policy analyst. The Morgan Foundation is a trust with the stated aim of reducing wealth disparities.
The book argues for $200-a-week benefit for all parents with a child under three, and a basic income for lower-income families, which would be financed through the redistribution of taxes in New Zealand. For example, a CCIT (Comprehensive Capital Income Tax) for investment property owners could be used to finance the model, along with a more equitable and readjusted New Zealand Super model. Berentson-Shaw claims the children’s benefit would also lead to savings of “$1.1b in poor education and its impact on productivity, $2b in health, $1.1b in crime and $700m in social welfare savings.”
The author explains that despite the popular opinion among New Zealanders that lower-income people will spend the extra money on vices like tobacco and alcohol, research indicates otherwise. Poor families are more likely to increase spending on their children when access to more money is available. As Berenston-Shaw puts it: “New Zealanders are quick to moralize about the poor” and in respect to the administering of such a policy, she envisions it as being politically disruptive. “About half of New Zealanders can see the structural issues that feed into low incomes and poor outcomes, and that means about half don’t.” Her task then, and perhaps one of the purposes of the book, is to win over many of those who don’t, by convincing them that the benefits of a UBI do indeed outweigh the costs.
The 2020 BIEN Congress was to be held in Brisbane in Australia from the 28th to the 30th September 2020. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the event has been cancelled. BIEN’s Executive Committee and the Scottish and Australian congress Local Organising Committees have agreed the following statement: ‘The Scottish and Australian Congress Local Organisation Committees have agreed that the current plan is to hold the 2021 BIEN congress in Scotland and the 2022 BIEN congress in Australia.’
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