You have probably heard about the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and noticed more and more people arguing for one. So what is it? Basic Income UK define UBI as:
…an income paid to individuals, as a right of legal residence, without means testing or requirements to work. The payment is non taxable and should be sufficient to cover basic needs. Everyone who qualifies for the payment will receive it from birth till death. Having a basic income in place will provide a secure floor for people to build on rather than a safety net with holes so big many fall through.
In sum, by providing a UBI you are freed from constant worry of how you are going to pay bills and afford to eat each month – an increasing concern for most people – and have more time and ability to do what you want to do, in a life and work sense.
Basic Income UK provide a list of key reasons for why we should support a UBI, including empowering workers to have more power to further better working conditions and have more control over their work, reducing working hours and encouraging the sharing out of socially necessary jobs, rewarding those who do valuable unpaid work (for example, childcare), fostering creativity and expression, and improving democracy as more people have time and resources to have a say in and influence on things that matter to them.
There is also the rise of technology and automation where many jobs are now being quite capably done by robots. Rather than being afraid of this, we should be embracing this next stage of human development and seizing this opportunity to have a healthier work/life balance.
However, what is often the first question we ask someone we meet for the first time, other than how are you? It is commonly: What is it you do?
We implicitly know what the do implies: work. The value and importance society and dominant culture puts onto work is incredible. The competition regarding who sets their alarm the earliest to go to work, as though setting it earlier and working longer is a sign of ‘making it’, is telling.
Let’s also consider what we mean by success. Often success is only discussed in a narrow commercial sense, even if it comes at a huge cost to people’s health, time and work/life balance. Wouldn’t it be better if we stopped to think about what success means, not just to the person working but also the people their work affects? This relates to the importance of social impact.
Social impact also links closely with the concept of UBI. If people knew what they needed to live and survive with was guaranteed to them every month, this would free up more time for people to do things that benefit and impact on society in a positive way. The dominant way we judge success is by how much someone earns each month, rather than looking at whether what someone’s doing is having a positive social impact.
We focus on doing things that have high social returns – it’s when it comes to making money from this that we struggle! That’s because a lot of things that benefit society in a positive way don’t tend to make a lot of money, or any at all! That’s the flawed system we live in. There is also sometimes an expectation that because it’s a positive, good thing for society you should do it for free. That’s wrong.
In the 9 years we have worked together, we have set-up a women’s only football club that has positively impacted upon many of those engaged in a social, health and well-being sense including via creating an alternative coaching philosophy and environment, whilst also running campaigns on food poverty and on the importance of trade unions. Pretty much most of what we have done through the club has been for free, we have been fortunate to obtain some funding via grant projects for some of our work but it is very limited and running the club is like a full-time job in itself!
There is also Libre Digital, where we have run hundreds of workshops across South Yorkshire, especially within libraries, that have provided flexible and personalised teaching in technology, mainly engaging older people, helping reduce social isolation and thus increasing health and well-being and community engagement. We are only able to run projects when we obtain funding so most of the projects have seen us get paid on an irregular basis, but again it’s not enough to live off each month with most of the work we do for the organisation being non-paid.
Jay & Jane was a way of us trying to get better at the commercial side, offering services and skills to creatives, community groups and independent businesses, but still have a positive impact as much as we could whilst doing this. This has meant we have connected with other socially impacting organisations in the community, which we have enjoyed. However, we also realised that we needed to make clearer our values as people and as a couple and working partnership, hence the creation of the Social Fund for instance.
Given our approach to work and life we live a very modest lifestyle. In our case a basic income would help with reducing the pressure to cover living costs and allow us to spend even more of our time, alongside covering our existing unpaid work that has a positive social impact.
Obviously, there are always concerns with how things would work when they sound too good to be true, especially when the main beneficiary will be people that don’t have lots of money. This also relates to how UBI, in the wrong hands, could be abused and be a way to undercut support and resources people already get. That’s why it has to be shaped by this alternative way of seeing society and work, with a focus on individual and collective creativity, freedom, expression and democracy.
UBI needs to be seen as being part of other struggles as well, such as a maximum wage to reduce income inequality, social housing and rent controls and bringing key public services back into the public domain, such as transport, health and utilities. UBI cannot be a single issue cause, it needs to be considered as part of a broader political project for a fairer, more equal society of democratic socialism.
That is why we are endorsing the Basic Income UK statement here and why we encourage you to do the same. It is also why at the moment we have set-up a Patreon, which you can see here, as the next best thing for us to help support the work we do each week, which we believe delivers important social impact. If you could help support and share we would really appreciate it.