A new Universal Basic Opportunity Fund could anchor workers for the challenges of the 2020s – from retraining to social care – amid widespread economic insecurity, a new paper says.
Pathways to Universal Basic Income proposes a universal £10,000 “dividend” for all under 55, funded by a new sovereign wealth fund, for citizens to learn, retrain, care, or set-up a new business: key challenges of the next decade.
And it could also help unlock public investment in key UK physical infrastructure like utilities, housing, digital and transport.
The Fund builds on Margaret Thatcher’s successful Enterprise Allowance scheme, which handed 325,000 people with £40 a week (£120 today) to set-up a business, with few strings attached.
The report is the third and final in a series on modern economic insecurity: last month, the think-tank warned 40% in the UK have less than £1,000 saved and 30% are at risk of a financial shock, such as from automation, showing the need for more widespread asset-based redistribution.
The paper shows how this Fund could be financed:
- An endowment, the returns on which would fund the Fund’s dividend. The fund would be built up over time by issuing public debt at a low-rate, investing globally in a portfolio and aiming to achieve the same funds as Norway-style funds i.e. 4% return a year. It would invest in high-growth global projects as well as longer-term critical British infrastructure. There is huge demand for ultra-safe government bonds: recent rounds of public gilt issues have been massively over-subscribed. Ultimately this could then fund a Universal Basic Income.
- Levies on untaxed corporate assets such as data transfers from UK citizens on which business models, such as Facebook’s, are built; and modernising the tax system for the 21st century’s challenges, prioritising taxes on wealth as opposed to income.
- In-year savings from individuals’ tax/benefits for each of the two years the policy is taken (paid at £5,000 per year over two years).
Universal Basic Opportunity Fund: how could it work?
- £10,000 over two years, available to everyone under 55 to help meet the challenges of the 2020s – such as upskilling, starting a business or combining work with care.
- Individuals claiming the £10,000 would be required to demonstrate how they intend to put the fund to good use but would need to ‘claim’ via a local authority, accredited employer, union, university, college, or other public body.
- Funded like student grants but wealthier individuals could be required to pay back more in tax as their earnings increase.
The report details real life case studies on how the fund could benefit people on low, middle and high incomes.
A Universal Basic Income (UBI) is becoming increasingly coming into the mainstream with different models being explored. RSA Scotland is exploring a UBI pilot with four Scottish councils and the Scottish government, and the RSA is working with a housing association in Rochdale to trial an “alternative income”.
The RSA believes UBI will ultimately need to be based on a non-statist sovereign wealth fund model, and redistribute some of the capital captured in the wealth of individuals and global corporates, rather than funded solely by taxes on labour.
Under the RSA’s “pro-work not post-work” model, UBI would be designed to enhance good work, and would complement not replacement key welfare policies like housing benefit or disability benefit providing more economic security. It would be designed to support peoples’ living costs rather than replace existing public services such as further or higher education, labour market support or social care provision.
The report is the next from the RSA’s Future Work Centre, which follows from Matthew Taylor’s good work review for the Prime Minister.
Anthony Painter, Director of the RSA’s Action and Research Centre, said:
“Economic insecurity risks becoming the new normal unless we take action: around a third of the workforce today are economically insecure, and many more out of work can seem permanently excluded. The simple fact is that too many households are highly vulnerable to a shock in a decade of disruption, with stormclouds on the horizon if automation, Brexit and an ageing population are mismanaged.
“Without a real change in our thinking, neither tweaks to the welfare state nor getting people into work alone, when the link between hard work and fair pay has broken, will help working people meet the challenges ahead.
“Equally though those who advocate a Universal Basic Income must show how it is pro-work rather than post-work, and develop specific ideas to fund it. Our report is an attempt to do exactly that.”
Ash Singleton, RSA head of media, email@example.com, 07799 737 970.