As the concept of a Universal Basic Income grows in strength, it would be useful to document specific situations in NZ where the UBI would enhance the lives of people.
Recently there have been two situations which have been punitive in nature. In one instance persons with cancer must continually produce evidence that they are ill in order to continue to receive a benefit. They must also fulfil requirements for getting back into work. Similarly persons receiving child support payments who do not fulfil looking for work requirements or attending training sessions will have their child support payments cut. There can be quite valid reasons why requirements are not meet.
One of the definitions of the UBI as outlined in Guy Standing’s A Precariat Charter, From Denizens to Citizens (2014), Article 25 is that ‘the UBI is to be provided unconditionally without behavioural rules’
These two examples show how our government is setting punitive behavioural rules.
If persons in the above situations were able to receive a Universal Basic Income then they obtain control with dignity over the difficulties that so often way lay life.
In a Radio NZ, Nine to Noon discussion on the child care issue it was mentioned that the government aims to have 98% of children in childcare. This is a devaluing of the nurturing work of women in families. Recently health measures have been announced to help curb obesity in children. All children are to be screened before 5 years of age and placed on a programme if the child’s weight is deemed to be on the obesity scale. This is not only punitive, but also, fear inducing, for both mothers and children. In The Precariat, the new dangerous class (2011) Guy Standing writes
‘If children are deprived of care due to the demands of labour and other work, the long term costs may include children growing up deprived of socialisation values that come from inter-generational transfer of knowledge, experience and simple closeness.’ (Chapter 5, section ‘Work for reproduction’) With a Universal Basic Income, mothers could, if they so wish, remain at home to care for their children in these important formative years.
The Salvation Army’s report ‘Invisible in the Supercity’ published 18 November 2015 details how there are children sleeping outside in cars, garages and under bridges. The report has found that the children’s families often do not know where to go for help. In his book Basic Income A Transformative Policy for India (2015) Guy Standing writes about the ‘scarcity mindset’:
’ Those who lack a key commodity apparently react differently from those who do not experience a sense of scarcity…. This ‘scarcity mindset’ has effects which determine behaviour and attitudes in a debilitating way. It shortens a person’s planning horizons and narrows their perspective, effectively blocking out consideration of options. Scarcity colonizes the mind. It generates a mindset that helps to perpetuate the scarcity, for people cannot psychologically prepare themselves for launching initiatives or taking entrepreneurial risks.’(Chapter 3, section The Lauderdale paradox and the ‘scarcity mindset’)
A Universal Basic Income could relieve this ‘scarcity mindset’ and empower people to take charge of their lives and not be dependent on a controlling bureaucracy.
I suggest that we make note of situations where a Universal Basic Income would enhance life in New Zealand.