Time for a universal basic income

 

Sir, – The Low Pay Commission has been asked to look at the design of a “living wage” for workers (News, April 15th). The brief to the commission includes consideration of an age-related living wage and the possibility of different regional rates, with possibly one for Dublin. The Tánaiste said: “One of the legacies of the pandemic must be a more inclusive society that rewards work and enterprise better”. The Tánaiste needs to be reminded that our “inclusive society” includes more than workers (people in paid employment) and entrepreneurs (business owners); it includes all citizens irrespective of their employment status. The spectre of age-related or regional rates increases the already high level of divisiveness within this society.

The programme for government provides for a pilot of universal basic income (UBI) in the lifetime of this Government, following a review by the Low Pay Commission. This commission is also considering a basic income trial for the arts sector.

The Tánaiste states that any move to a minimum living wage must be progressed in a way “that does not cost jobs or cause people’s working hours to be reduced”, which reinforces in my mind that the commission’s report to the Tánaiste will identify a barely living wage.

To create an inclusive and fair society and move toward a just society, post-pandemic, there is a need to implement UBI in the next budget. UBI is a regular payment to every citizen regardless of circumstances, without any means test or work requirement, and would replace the State pension and the majority of social welfare payments which are divisive and maintain dependency. A UBI of €350 per week for all citizens over 18 years resident in this country, with an opt-in, opt-out mechanism, is appropriate given the benefits it would bring to all recipients, the savings achieved and the multiplier effect in the economy, together with the creation and expansion of all types of employment. It is surprising that the trade unions, other lobby groups and social charities are not insisting on the implementation of UBI. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Minister for Finance need to be brave enough to do some real budgeting and make the necessary cuts of wasteful expenditure to ensure the implementation of UBI to create an inclusive, fair and just society. – Yours, etc,

HUGH McDERMOTT,

Dromahair, Co Leitrim.