Having moved to Peebles in 2002, self-proclaimed ‘stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. In this first of a two-part series, it’s Universal Basic Income!
What is Universal Basic Income! It’s an amount of money given to citizens universally, sufficient to cover basic needs & free of conditions. In other words basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Many don’t realise that this is not a new concept and was thought about in the early 80’s to tackle what was then seen by many visionary’s as impending doom for the workers by rampant automation of many jobs from factories to retail and financial services.
We are already in the grip of a worldwide coronavirus pandemic and realisation is dawning on guardians of our current economic systems across the world; that drastic changes need to be made to support citizens in times of crisis like the one we are currently experiencing. The UK like many countries in Europe and some parts of the world, put in place a welfare net to catch people falling behind in life either of their own making or due to circumstances beyond their control. Since 2010 the Tories with support from the Lib-Dems took a wrecking ball to our welfare state which has impacted the most vulnerable amongst us, the working class, disabled, single parents, students, young people and the unemployed.
The current crisis shows us why a complete rethink is required if we have to survive this crisis and any future pandemics. The majority of the UK workforce is living under a gig economy i.e. zero hour and temporary contracts with no sick pay or any other entitlements when compared to permanent employees. Self-employed individuals like myself are always facing the full force of any economic disaster or policy changes by newly elected governments.
The recent budget announcement did not have any good news for the self-employed, low income earners and people claiming in work benefits. The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £94.25 a week, way below what is currently offered in other European nations; e.g. in Germany its £287 and Sweden £230. Currently if you are self-employed or earn below the £118 threshold per week, you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay! This also means that many workers who are on zero hour contracts or whose status is self-employed will be hit the hardest by the self-isolate policy. It’s also a wakeup call for many that were cheering the Tories for cutting the benefits of many citizens that were mostly in low wage jobs and who relied on tax credits to top up their earnings.
Latest predictions by many economic think-tanks have warned the government to brace themselves for massive lay-offs. redundancies and job losses which will be in the millions. I hope people will realise the importance of the welfare state now and will not rush to judgement on those that access these benefits as they seldom are living a life of luxury but making ends meet on a measly income provided by the state.
By the time this goes to print the UK may have initiated lockdown procedures and as per governments own advice those citizens that show symptoms of the virus should self-isolate for 14 days thereby reducing the risk of transmission to others. Next month I will look at the benefits to society if Universal Basic Income is introduced and the huge savings by doing away with the current system. Until then take care folks and self-isolate if necessary.
Published in The Peeblesshire News on 20th March 2020.
The second part will be published on Friday 17th April edition of the Peeblesshire News.