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As an alternative to the current failings of the welfare systems globally, we could consider a Universal Basic Income (UBI) which would guarantee a small survival wage to each citizen, regardless of status, income or anything else. Guy Standing (2005) called it “the essence of real freedom”.

Welfare is described by Ravenhill (2011) as based on equality of opportunity, while being massively unfair to the disadvantaged. The welfare systems of most current developed countries are a huge bureaucratic mess, with information needed to be given by every citizen within it for any change in social status to update the means-tested method of actually determining who gets how much. By breaking this down into standard for every citizen, you effectively remove the red tape and inefficiencies of the system, freeing more of the tax-payers money to actually be used to lift people out of poverty.

The Canadian government did a small scale social experiment in the town of Dauphin, Manitoba in 1974. The study granted everyone in the town who earned below the poverty line a no-strings-attached sum of money which brought them in line with it. The result was that there was a significant drop in hospitalisations (especially regarding traffic accidents and mental health) and evidence of an improvement of social attitudes and behaviours (Forget, 2011).

Many people will not even consider this method due to the misconception that it would make people lazy and encourage unemployment, however other studies have found that over time it actually increases employment as it opens the opportunities available to people who are deep in poverty (Guardian, 2014). Relieving some pressure from a job seeker would also allow them to take more care in finding a better suited job, which is better for both the employer and employee for retention and quality of both life and work.

The system many people are used to now is awkward, inefficient and encourages discrimination against impoverished and unfortunate people. Considering a more graceful alternative may give us the opportunity to life millions out of poverty, give the minimum wage workers a better chance and unite people as a whole under a fair system.

Maria Homolova

References:

Fearn, H., 2014. ‘How about a ‘citizen’s income’ instead of benefits?’ The Guardian, [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/08/citizens-income-instead-of-benefits [Accessed 5th December 2014]

Forget, E., 2011. ‘The Town with No Poverty: Using Health Administration Data to Revisit Outcomes of a Canadian Guaranteed Annual Income Field Experiment’ [pdf] University of Manitoba. Available at: http://public.econ.duke.edu/~erw/197/forget-cea%20%282%29.pdf [Accessed 5th December 2014]

Ravenhill, J., 2011. ‘Global Political Economy: The Study of Global Political Economy’. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Standing, G., 2005. ‘Why Basic Income Is Needed For A Right To Work’ [pdf] Rutgers Journal of Law and Urban Policy. Available at: http://www.guystanding.com/files/documents/Why_basic_income_is_needed_for_a_right_to_work_Rutgers.pdf [Accessed 5th December 2014]

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