What is Universal Basic Income and how does it work?

UBI is a regular payment made to all citizens by the government. The payment is universal in nature and does not take into account income or employment status.

Is it being used in Christchurch?

It has not been used in Christchurch or New Zealand but was proposed during the 2017 General Election. It has been a topic of discussion and debate here for a few years but, as yet, no formal policy has been introduced. The nearest example was a short-term wage subsidy which was provided after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, where employees were paid directly by the government in order to keep businesses going and allow them time to find new premises and restart operations. In some ways, this was a UBI for a post-disaster situation.

The concept is not widely used, so how do you convince other local, regional, national governments that this is a viable proposition?

The concept has been around for a long time, but slowly countries are looking at it and trialling it in different forms, usually targeted at small communities or experiments. Research literature has reported improved outcomes in a wide range of indicators, but cost and social conservatism tends to provide strong resistance to broader implementation. It seems that small scale trials, particularly in deprived areas will continue to be the favoured approach. The concept is definitely finding increasing acceptance within the general population.

Given your strong financial background, what does UBI solve?

UBI can deal with several inefficiencies and market failures: it could eliminate the need for an over complex welfare system, which is often an inefficient and dehumanising experience; it recognises the value of unpaid labour in the economy, some 25% of GDP and primarily performed by women; it can address the future challenges of automation and fewer jobs and can be used as an economic and monetary stabiliser post-financial crisis, such as QE4ThePeople.

How does this benefit the state, the individual and is there a knock-on to the private sector too?

It can lead to a much more efficient government, remove major uncertainty around meeting basic needs and allow for more innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. Ultimately it can lead to greater human freedom.

How could UBI change social welfare?

It could eliminate social welfare completely, reduce poverty, and improve general health and well-being. It is important to note that medical issues, such as disabilities would be supported through the medical sector. It can also help us reshape our understanding of what it means to be a citizen, and the relationship between the citizen and the state.

Aside from your role as a speaker, what are you looking forward to from this conference?

I am looking forward to meeting other speakers and engaging more broadly in a dialogue on reframing the social contract in a fast-changing world.

See Raf Manji’s speaker profile.

Register for this year’s conference.