Island ‘should look at universal basic income’

JERSEY should consider introducing a universal basic income for all residents following the success of its £100 Spend Local voucher card scheme, according to a charity head.

Malcolm Ferey. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30287956)
Malcolm Ferey. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (30287956)

Malcolm Ferey, chief executive of Citizens Advice Jersey, said that the idea of paying each and every citizen a credit to meet their basic needs was growing in momentum worldwide, with many more people facing hardship due to the pandemic.

In a JEP comment piece on page 14 of today's [23 February] JEP, he said that he hoped the Island would at least consider the idea of a universal basic income and Spend Local had been an ‘interesting study’ of how it might work.

‘Making benefit payments universal is a concept that is gaining traction globally as many jurisdictions struggle with the ongoing negative economic effects of perpetual lockdowns,’ he said.

‘To take this concept further, a universal basic income being paid monthly to every citizen, set at an amount sufficient to secure basic needs as a permanent earnings floor that no one could fall beneath, is in my view, something that needs to be considered locally. This would replace many of the temporary benefits, which are given only in case of emergency, or to those who successfully pass the applied qualification tests for work and income.’

Mr Ferey said that among the benefits of UBI would be simplification of the welfare system.

‘This simple concept is not so outlandish when you consider the costs to the public purse associated with administering a benefits system,’ he said.

‘Officer time, recovering overpayments of benefit and processing complex claims all become a thing of the past, as a universal basic income dispenses with all of this.’

Last autumn Jersey issued £100 voucher cards, which had to be spent by the end of October, to each and every Islander in a bid to boost the ailing Covid-19-hit economy.

Mr Ferey said some of the scheme’s features could be adopted into a UBI system, such as requiring sums distributed to be spent within a monthly time limit. He added that evidence suggested that introducing a UBI would not make people become ‘lazy’.

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