Has the pandemic boosted the idea of universal basic income?

The Fair Observer

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have brought economic activity to a standstill. As a result, the livelihoods of people around the world have been threatened. To respond to the crisis, some governments have considered how to expand their social safety net. This is particularly because many people who work in the informal economy or those without jobs have been left with no financial support. In this context, the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has resurfaced.

Until recently, UBI was a utopian proposal relegated to academic discussions. But the pandemic has led to a debate about UBI as a potential tool of public policy. Now, several basic income programs are running around the world. Advocates see in UBI an instrument to build more resilient societies in the face of economic crises, income inequality and automation. Critics argue that governments should strengthen existing social programs instead.

In June 2020, Spain offered monthly payments of up to €1,015 ($1,200) to the poorest families. Germany has implemented a small-scale pilot study to take place over three years. As part of the program, 120 Germans will receive monthly payments of €1,200. In the United Kingdom, a motion to introduce UBI was signed last year by more than 100 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum. At the start of the pandemic, the US government paid up to $1,200 to adults earning below $99,000 a year; a second stimulus package meant Americans received even more money. Thus, it seems that the crisis has shifted the UBI debate, at least in some European countries and in the US.

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