You’d be hard pressed to find any Brit who’d turn down a cool £10K. Think of everything you could spend it on! Maybe something really sexy like a deposit for a low-interest mortgage on a one-bedroom flat! Oof!
Well, there are now proposals from a very serious London-based think tank to give everyone in the UK £10,000 if they’re under the age of 55.
In their report published today, the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce say: “In the UK, millions of people circle in and out of poverty; are exposed to insecure forms of work; and rely on a welfare system which can seem more intent on punishing than helping. Meanwhile, productivity growth in the UK has been anaemic for more than a decade. The current model of political economy is not working. New and practical thinking is desperately needed.”
So how would their proposed scheme work?
They report says their “central proposition is the creation of a Universal Basic Opportunity Fund (UBOF): an effort to reimagine how society supports people to live meaningful, contributory lives. Its premise is simple: fund every citizen under the age of 55 with a £5,000 opportunity dividend for up to two years, taken at a time of their choosing over the course of a decade.”
Could you imagine if everyone in the UK was given £10,000 at once?! Profits at pubs throughout the land would skyrocket.
Anthony Painter, director of the RSA’s Action and Research Centre, said of the proposals: “The simple fact is that too many households are highly vulnerable to a shock in a decade of disruption, with storm clouds on the horizon if automation, Brexit and an ageing population are mismanaged.
“Without a real change in our thinking, neither tweaks to the welfare state nor getting people into work alone, when the link between hard work and fair pay has broken, will help working people meet the challenges ahead.”
But are there any problems with this scheme?
One obvious flaw is that if lots of people used the money to buy a house this could push property prices even higher, thereby making the UK housing market even harder to break into for the young and the poor.
Dr Wanda Wyporska, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, sounded a further note of caution. She told ShortList: “There needs to be a lot more work done on universal basic incomes and how they interact with the complexity of a variety of factors, including the social security system, pensions and, of course, housing in the short term. While the prospect of £10,000 seems immediately attractive, the terms of conditions attached must be carefully scrutinised and we ought to learn from the trials being run in various cities.”
And there have been other criticisms of universal basic incomes and schemes like this one – even from the left. The Guardian’s Sonia Sodha argues that a universal basic income is simply a “poverty backstop” and is “no alternative to the economic and social reform we need.”
On this point I completely agree; there need to be much more revolutionary measures to really tackle generational and wealth inequality in this county – but I reckon £10,000 would be a good place to start.
So, if the proposals did go ahead, what would you spend the money on?