Add New Zealand to the List of Countries Considering Basic Income
At the end of 2015, I wrote about Finland’s plan to test Basic Income among its residents:
I included “but not for the reasons you think” in the headline because Finland’s decision to try Basic Income was less about helping people living in poverty and more about what research director Olli Kangas called “changes in the labor market:” more freelancers, more short-term jobs, and so on.
It turns out my “not for the reasons you think” statement was extremely short-sighted, because—as Meghan Nesmith recently shared—Ontario is launching a similar Basic Income test for exactly the same reasons.
Meghan quoted Ontario’s budget statement:
The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market.
Guess what “today’s dynamic labour market” means? Freelancers, short-term jobs, frequent layoffs, and all of the other factors that make it difficult to sustain an income from year to year.
Which brings us to New Zealand. The Labour Party is also thinking about Basic Income, and I bet you can’t guess why:
“We expect that in the future world of work there will be at least a portion of the workforce that will rapidly move in and out of work,” [Labour Party Leader Andrew Little] said.
“The question is whether you have an income support system that means every time you stop work you have to go through the palaver of stand-down periods, more bureaucracy, more form filling at the same time as you’re trying to get into your next job.”
That’s from Stuff.co.nz, which notes that New Zealand, like so many other countries, is going through “significant changes” in the way people work and are employed.
Let’s not forget about The Netherlands, either; last summer I wrote about one Dutch city that was ready to launch a basic income test:
This January, Fast Company reported that the project has not yet started, but it is starting to take shape:
Utrecht has applied to the Dutch central government to conduct a welfare experiment called “See What Works.” This will compare the effect of four types of basic income plus a control. The first will give people about $980, ask nothing in return, and allow as much work as people want (a pure version of basic income). The second will require people to volunteer — say, to do shopping for a elderly person — and take money away if people don’t volunteer. The third will offer extra money if people volunteer. And, a fourth will give people money, but not allow them to work.
Working with the University of Utrecht, the city wants to recruit 250 people for See What Works, then select volunteers at random for the five tracks. It will then see what effect each of the payments have on how much people want to work, their level of well-being, and how much they use public services, like health care. If approved by the government in Amsterdam the Hague, the program would run for two years.
And yes, part of the reason for this Basic Income experience has to do with—as Fast Company puts it—“a necessary adjustment in the age of automation when well-paying low-skill jobs are likely to be fewer and further between.”
It’s refreshing to see multiple governments discussing how both work and employment are changing, and proposing solutions instead of telling its citizens to grab those bootstraps and pull.
It’s a little less refreshing to see Basic Income only take off after the economy shifted to the point where a larger number of people, including the privileged types, had difficulty finding and sustaining work.
But at least it’s a step in the right direction.
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