Majority in Wales support a basic income trial – new findings by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
Almost three quarters of people in Wales are in favour of a trial paying individuals a basic income, according to new polling commissioned by the Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe.
The poll, carried out by Survation, found that 69% of people in Wales would support the Welsh Government piloting a basic income scheme, which has been described as ‘this generation’s NHS’.
The commissioner, who’s urging the next Welsh Government to commit to progressive policies ahead of the Welsh election on May 6, is working with the thinktank Autonomy on a study into how giving every citizen a set amount of money could decrease inequality as Wales deals with the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19. A report is due out later this year.
Worldwide support is growing for the idea of some form of universal basic income (UBI) – a government programme where every resident receives a set amount of money on a regular basis, regardless of their employment status. It is a minimum payment, designed to meet basic needs, paid to everyone individually, rather than by household, without condition.
A pilot in Finland, which paid 560 Euros per month, found participants had better well-being, greater trust in others and higher levels of confidence in the future. They also worked slightly more than those on unemployment benefits and reported better cognitive functioning.
Ms Howe, whose role is to protect the interests of future generations under Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act, is asking political parties to commit to piloting a basic income in their manifestos. A basic income could, she says, tackle current and future challenges including the welfare state’s failure to lift Wales out of poverty, the rise of more insecure models of work (such as zero-hours contracts) and increasing automation posing a threat to some occupations.
Wales is nearing the one-year anniversary since the country, along with the rest of the UK, went into lockdown. Before the pandemic, 700,000 people were living in poverty in Wales. Between August and October 2020 the redundancy rate was more than double compared with the previous year. Wales already has the highest level of child poverty in the UK, at 28%
Swansea and RCT councils passed motions in support of piloting a UBI and Cardiff Council’s leader has written to the First Minister expressing interest.
Last year, Plaid Cymru called for an emergency UBI and the party recently backed the commissioner’s recommendation for a cultural basic income to support the arts.
Piloting a basic income and exploring opportunities for a shorter working week are two of the commissioner’s 48 recommendations to the next Welsh Government in her Manifesto for the Future
It calls for progressive policies that take action on the climate and nature emergency and the impacts of COVID-19, to ensure a green and just recovery that doesn’t further disadvantage those disproportionately affected by both. Ms Howe says a basic income could work alongside better connected community infrastructure such as walkable 20-minute neighbourhoods and access to green spaces within 300m of homes, as part of a National Wellness System which puts more of a preventative focus on healthcare.
Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, said:
“The Well-being of Future Generations Act gives us the permission to be bold and try new things that could take us towards a healthier and more equal Wales.
“People in Wales are facing incredible uncertainty as a result of both COVID-19 and the climate emergency – a basic income could be that stronger safety net which keeps people from falling through the cracks of support now and in the future.”
Will Stronge, Co-Director of Autonomy, said:
“There is a strong appetite amongst the Welsh public for trying out basic income.
“The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates radical and bold changes to support people through what looks like the worst economic crisis in generations. As the economy and labour market struggles to find its feet, it’s clear that guaranteeing an income floor for all is the most progressive way of securing livelihoods.
“The time has come for a universal basic income for Wales.”
Notes to editors
- A total of 1,039 people were asked by pollster Survation: Thinking about the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, to what extent (if at all) would you support the Welsh Government trialing a ‘basic income’ scheme, whereby residents in Wales receive a regular, guaranteed, support payment to ensure that livelihoods are protected?
- 34% said they strongly support the idea; 35% said they would somewhat support it. Only 6% said they would strongly oppose it.
Sophie Howe is Wales’s first Future Generations Commissioner. Her role is to be the guardian of future generations in Wales, under the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which was made law in 2015.
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