Calling for a Universal Basic Income trial in Wales

Basic Income in Wales – the case for urgent investigation.

The world is at something of a crossroads. Whenever you turn on the news, hit up your twitter feed, or listen to the fabled man or woman in the pub, you get the impression of a world in flux. Uncertainty reigns supreme, and the risks to our economy, ecology and society are high, and rising.

It’s against this backdrop that I’m calling for an urgent investigation into basic income here in Wales. I’m not suggesting that basic income is some panacea to all these potential risks, but I do believe it could form part of the answer, and as such, cannot be summarily dismissed out of hand

Let’s start with a few things we know.

Work today isn’t ‘working’. Workers are increasingly unhappy, impoverished, at the beck and call of their masters, and some, even enslaved. Precarity rules the working lives of an ever expanding cohort. Capital is king, and it’s power is growing apace.

Work today isn’t fair. The rewards for certain work are over-egged (financialised marketeers betting on the tiniest swing in commodified tosh); for other work (elderly care, child-rearing for example) the rewards are non existent, but the societal benefits are high.

Welfare today isn’t ‘working’. The dehumanising focus on austerity has led, in part, to a rejigging of the welfare system (Universal Credit, sanctions regime etc). More to the point, it is wrong minded, as the focus always reverts back to work. And as we know, work today isn’t working.

We’re not alone here in Wales. These are international problems, affecting post industrial communities, first and hardest. They have been pressing issues for some time. Issues we have failed to address.

Let’s touch on a few things we don’t know.

There’s a growing debate about the impact of driverless technology, robotics, automation and Artificial Intelligence on the future of work. Future scanning experts who fundamentally disagree on what they think will happen, all agree on one thing – work will fundamentally change over the next decade and beyond.

We can see a future with far fewer jobs. That will have massive political consequences. It’s a risk that needs us to model solutions. Leaving these problems (and solutions) to those running the Country a decade from now is a dereliction of duty for those of us here today, and scarily could be too late, for too many. Many who will be consumed by debilitating poverty, and a society looking for ‘others’ to blame.

Contemplating the concept of basic income forces us all to challenge key assumptions about work, welfare and purpose. About stress and anxiety. About freedom & happiness. Society needs us to have these debates. Our Well Being & Future Generations Act is the catalyst for this challenge.

There are basic income trials of one sort or another across the world, including our near neighbours in Scotland. There is so much we don’t know about the concept, especially regarding key challenges such as cost, behaviour change(s), the work that is left to do, redistributional impacts, how we deal with those with particular needs etc., that we need these trials, and more.

So, Wales, let’s do our bit. Lets contribute to the world’s learning on basic income.