Shouldn’t every government believe that each of its citizens deserves a fair chance of leading a dignified life? Isn’t it the duty of the elected officials to take care of the poor and those under the poverty line who can’t even meet their basic expenses? The government can decide to extend a helping hand and ensure that nobody in the country has to sleep hungry or rest without a roof over their heads.
From this ideology comes the concept of Universal Basic Income (or UBI) which postulates that each citizen of the country, regardless of their gender, race or class, should be given a certain amount of money to fulfill their basic requirements of home, food, and healthcare.
Now, some critics believe that such a law promotes laziness and citizens will stop feeling the need to work if the government promises to look after them However, is it true? Here, we look at some of the reasons why Basic Universal Income is a right to life that everyone must possess.
1. Some People are Poor. Not by choice
How many men and women can you think of who have decided to remain uneducated, or become homeless by choice? The first point we need to understand is that POVERTY IS NOT A CHOICE! When you are born into a family of poverty, your chances of going to a good school automatically reduces. Even if you go to school, your primary concerns in life revolve around getting money for basic survival. This has pushed hundreds of thousands of youth in the U.S. over the years into the world of crime.
A basic income will definitely help such families. It is really simple. If you know that once you get home, and I mean a ‘home’ which has four walls and a roof, and you will have food to eat, then you can focus your energies on more constructive pursuits like academics or sports which will help you to further take your family out of poverty.
2. Job Losses are not always Compensated
Source: The Guardian
As per news reports, the current COVID-19 Pandemic is responsible for over 40 million job losses in the United States. The people who lose their jobs often find themselves without another opportunity because the skill or expertise that they had is of no value anymore.
There are very few jobs which will not be replaced by Artificial Intelligence soon and it has become ever more important to keep upgrading your skills to stay put in the job market. To upgrade your skills, you need money for education, and a guaranteed basic income can provide you with the time and space to learn another skill and get back in the workforce. Eventually, this will reduce income inequality and everyone will get a level playing field.
3. Children of the Future
Source: Washington Monthly
A guaranteed income will not only improve the lives of youth and adults but also of children who are yet to be born. Young couples are gradually shying away from having children as they are afraid of the expenses it entails. Parents from poor families struggle to make ends meet. Sending their children to school or taking them to a hospital when they’re severely ill is a luxury many of them cannot afford.
This creates a vicious circle where the poor remain poor for generations. If a parent can send their child to school without worry, there is a higher chance that the child will get the family out of this poverty trap in the future and they will no longer need a stipend from the government to survive.
4. Senior Citizens can Retire without Stress
In such times of high prices of food, housing and healthcare, older citizens are scared of retirement. They continue to push themselves beyond their physical abilities as many of them do not receive pensions. Isn’t it the government’s basic duty to take care of these people? A UBI will make sure that even they are part of the financial umbrella of the government.
5. The Existing Welfare Program is Horrible
Source: Al Jazeera
Critics of the Basic Income program say that the poor already receive welfare grants from the government. What more do they want? What they don’t realize is the monstrosity with which these programs function. The moment a person starts improving his/her income, they are liable to lose their food stamps or healthcare benefits.
If you are below the poverty line, you earn close to nothing and you get your food from the government. If you start earning slightly more than the requirement for the poverty line, you have to buy your own food and house and are left with no money for education or other needs.
6. The Confidence to Demand Better Jobs or Wages
When a person is assured of an income that would meet his basic needs, he will not be forced to accept jobs that are hazardous or unsafe for his life. Moreover, if the working conditions are not conducive to a dignified life, he can protest and demand working conditions to be bettered. He can demand more wages if he feels underpaid. None of this can happen if the person has to hold on to their job for dear life. Today, companies can exploit can poor workers because they will accept anything to earn some money. Having a universal basic income would mean that skilled employees can demand better pay and conditions.
7. No Inflation Worries
Some economists have formulated that if people are given a basic income, they would spend it to buy more goods which would increase the prices of goods, thus leading to inflation. This has not been the case in any of the countries that practice Basic Income programs. In Alaska, where citizens are entitled to such an income since 1982, three-fourths of the people save this money for emergencies and cover their basic expenses from whatever they earn. When Finland began a similar program in 2017, citizens were thankful because it reduces stress and made people eager to look for good jobs or start their businesses.
There can be debates about who should receive the money – everyone or people below a certain income range. There can be debates about how long such a program should continue. There can be debates about whether the wealthy should be taxed to fund this program. There can also be debates about what amount would be considered fair. However, what seems beyond argument is the point that every citizen residing in this country should be guaranteed a universal basic income.