Support for universal basic income on the rise. Until we have to discuss how to fund it

A new survey has revealed that almost half of all adults aged 18 to 75 in the UK would support the government if it were to introduce a universal basic income (UBI).

The survey, commissioned by the IPR from Ipsos-MORI, revealed that 49% of adults aged 18 to 75 expressed support for the UK Government introducing UBI to cover basic needs, while only 26% opposed its introduction.

“The data should generate interesting analysis on the political feasibility of introducing basic income in the UK – in particular, about potential constituencies of support, and the forms of basic income that appeal to different demographics – important issues about which we currently know very little,” said the study’s author Dr Luke Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Thomas

Although the notion of introducing a UBI has been gaining ground internationally and in the UK, the study revealed a major stumbling block arises once discussion moves away from the general principles of UBI to concrete proposals about how to fund such a system.

When individuals were asked to consider UBI funded through increased taxation, support dropped to 30%, with 40% opposed, and when participants were asked to consider UBI funded through cuts in welfare benefits spending, support dropped to 37%, with 30% opposed.

In an accompanying policy brief, the IPR makes the point that a UBI paid at £73.10 a week for working age adults that replaced existing benefits would cost an additional £143 billion over existing social security expenditure and require large increases in income tax revenue, which could increase working age poverty by approximately 7%.

Under this scenario, 42% of households would see their disposable income fall.

“These new data show quite surprising levels of support for basic income in the UK, although this falls when asked to consider UBI’s fiscal implications,” said Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Mohammad Tajer. Featured image courtesy of Neil Cowburn

The IPR’s analysis underlines the difficulty in introducing a UBI that meets individuals’ needs, is fiscally viable and reduces the negative effects of means testing.

As such the Policy Brief suggests that UBI advocates should be more realistic and less ambitious. The IPR suggests trialing more modest schemes, such as those limited to particular demographic groups.

However, regardless of whether they support or oppose UBI, 34% of survey participants would like UBI to be funded by increasing taxes on wealth, while 28% would prefer to fund it by cutting existing welfare benefits.

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