World of work

Green Party policy: implementing a citizen's income

Mon 11 Apr 2016

For most people, from the age of 16 or so until our mid-60s, work takes up a large chunk of our waking hours and often shapes entire lives. Green World thought it was time to look at the work that we in Britain do - from what we get paid and how we value the contribution made through our jobs, to our labour rights, the need for green jobs and many things in between. We start with the citizen's income, one of the cornerstones of Green Party policy, and an idea intended to ensure greater equality while ending the tyranny of slave wages

What is a citizen's income?

A citizen's income (also known as a basic income) is a social security system in which all citizens of a country automatically receive an unconditional, non-withdrawable sum of money regardless of the wages or other income they receive.

There are several ways of implementing a citizen's income, but under Green Party policy proposals, a sum sufficient to cover basic needs would be payable to every woman, man and child who has been legally resident in the UK for at least a year, replacing personal tax-free allowances and most social security benefits. Greens acknowledge that the introduction of a comprehensive basic income scheme could not happen within a single Parliament, but hope that eventually, five basic rates could be paid: basic income for children under 18; basic income for those between 18 and the retirement age (proposed to be a little above the current most usual jobseeker's allowance); a basic income supplement for lone parents; a citizen's pension 'set at a level no lower than the official poverty line'; and a supplement for single pensioners.

Green Party estimates in 2015 indicated that such a scheme would have a gross cost of ?331 billion, which could be paid for by abolishing most existing benefits, abolishing thresholds for income tax and national insurance contributions, and removing almost half the tax and national insurance incentives for private pension contributions.

In addition to the monetary and administrative benefits of simplifying the social security system, it is hoped that such a system would halt the growing crisis of low pay and the precarity of a labour market with increasingly casualised employment, while at the same time boosting entrepreneurialism and offering people genuine security.

Call for research into the basic income

Caroline Lucas has been bringing the case for a basic income to the UK Parliament. She's making her case as pilot schemes pop up across Europe.

In Finland, the newly-elected government is set to launch a pilot project, and in the Dutch city of Utrecht Green Councillors and others are leading the way by trialling this bold new policy. A group of benefit claimants in the city will be given ?660 a month - without means testing. Crucially, they'll be able to get work, and keep the payment on top of any wages they earn.

Caroline has tabled an Early Day Motion (number 974) in Parliament backing more research into a basic income. The motion already has strong backing from the Scottish National Party, and a number of Labour MPs have also signed up. As Caroline said recently, she's aware of the complexities of the basic income, which is why her proposal is for the government to undertake further research into the policy.

She said: "Anyone who's serious about building an economy which provides dignity for all - and frees up our time as well as our minds - should, at the very least, be backing serious research into the possibilities offered by a basic income. The UK government should commission research into this bold policy and join the efforts already being made to answer the big economic and social challenges we face."?

Please urge your own MP to sign Caroline's EDM, which can be viewed at: www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/974