1. Money matters
August 3, 2018

Post-Brexit basic income backed by 41% of British citizens

By Lucy Ingham

An extensive survey British citizens has found that 41% are in support of basic income in the country, with just 17% opposing the concept on principle. This means that those in support of post-Brexit basic income outnumber those against two to one.

The survey, which saw 2,000 people polled by Populus on behalf of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), also found that 44% did not feel the current benefits system was working.

Basic income, often referred to as universal basic income, is a proposed alternative to the current welfare state that would see all citizens paid a flat amount each month, regardless of whether they were working or not.

Supporters of basic income argue that this would remove disincentives to work associated with the current welfare system. They also say that it would allow individuals from poorer backgrounds to more easily acquire the skills required for higher paid positions.

“This poll shows there’s net support for basic income in principle, and that there’s an appetite for experimentation,” said Charlie Young, report author and RSA Associate.

“The Universal Credit experiment is failing on its own terms, while the wider welfare state is riddled with complexities and underpinned by draconian sanctions,” added Anthony Painter, Director of the RSA’s Action and Research Centre.

“By contrast, our poll shows that in an era of widespread economic insecurity, policy-makers have the public’s support to start exploring innovative alternatives to today’s failing and unpopular welfare system.

The basic income funding challenge

While support in the UK for basic income is relatively strong, there are concerns around how it would be funded.

45% of those polled were concerned that it would be “unaffordable”, a view that is often voiced in criticism of the concept.

However, when it came to funding it, 39% felt that it should be paid for via a tax increase on the wealthiest citizens.

“There are clear lessons for basic income advocates and supporters, including around building support from those who don’t support the welfare status-quo, as well as understanding that relying very heavily on increasing basic rates of tax is something people are unlikely to get behind,” said Young.

“People favour more progressive ways of funding a basic income.”

Post-Brexit basic income trials

There have been numerous trails of basic income around the world, including in Finland and Canada, although no country has as yet initiated the system on a nationwide scale.

However, the RSA is helping to develop a number of post-Brexit basic income “experiments” in the UK.

These include basic income trials in a number of areas of Scotland.

“This poll shows that the Scottish Government has the public’s support in testing a Basic Income pilot with four Scottish local authorities,” said Jamie Cooke, Head of RSA Scotland.

“In Scotland, the opposition to conditionality and sanctions is especially strong and we need to be testing alternatives to the current failing system.

“Basic Income has the transformative potential to end modern economic security that other interventions lack, and it is for this reason in Scotland we are seeing a thriving movement for change from all parts of civil society.”