Along with my incredible actuarial analysis of our tax system over the weekend, I also figured out how much Universal Basic Income (UBI) would cost. If we were, straight off the bat, to give everyone in the UK over 18 £500 a month, it would cost somewhere in the region of £312 billion a year.
Which is a lot of money.
That said, it’s only half of what HMRC brought in in the 2017-18, but one would have to assume that they’d be less than impressed if the government suddenly nicked half of their ‘hard earned’ money and gave it away again.
It struck me you could do a phased rollout over a few years, which would have much less of an impact on the coffers.
Annual Cost (Cumulative)
18 – 29
30 – 39
40 – 49
50 – 59
60 – 69
70 – 79
Obviously, you’d have to take into account people getting older as you progress which will shift the figures about a bit, but it is probably do-able and I’m sure could it be used to replace various benefits and other payouts that many people get.
If I were running the system, I’d insist on three rules:
1) Everyone gets it, no exceptions (else it’s not universal)
2) What you do with it is up to you (no caveats)
3) If you don’t want it, don’t refuse it, give it away to someone who does
A lot of people assume that if you give people free money they will spend it on drink and drugs, which is a) very cynical and b) from the studies I’ve seen, not the case. Most use the money for helping with paying for life or for setting up their own businesses.
I think the latter is really important. Between 2012 and 2017 I worked as a freelance contractor, and it was hard but rewarding work. However, it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I really wanted to make films or work on more speculative web projects, but with a young family to feed and not always knowing where the next month’s pay packet is coming from, I never felt able to take the risk and really go for it. If I’d had UBI, knowing that at least there would be food on the table each month, I think I could have achieved so much more.
(Data sources: statista.com)1