Plans have been announced to trial a universal basic income (UBI) in England that would see up to 30 people receive an unconditional payment of £1,600 (€1,854) a month.
Under the scheme, which is the first of its kind in England, residents in central Jarrow, northeast England, and East Finchley, north London, will be handed the funds each month for two years, and researchers will monitor the effect the payment has on their work ethic and mental well-being.
The trial run has been organized by the progressive Autonomy think tank, which is seeking to fund the £1.6 million (€1.85 million) scheme through private donors. The initiative is not being paid for by U.K. taxpayers and is not affiliated with the British government.
“Our society is going to require some form of basic income in the coming years, given the tumult of climate change, tech disruption and industrial transition that lies ahead,” claimed Will Stronge, Autonomy’s director of research.
“This is why building the evidence base and public engagement now is so important, so the ground is well prepared for national implementation.”
He explained that researchers were interested to note the effect the UBI payment would have on people’s mental and physical health, as well as their desire to continue working.
Recipients will be free to carry on earning their own salary if they wish and will receive the payment on top of any employment income.
“All the evidence shows that UBI would directly alleviate poverty and boost millions of people’s well-being: the potential benefits are just too large to ignore,” Stronge added.
UBI schemes have recently been piloted elsewhere in Europe, most notably in Finland where a government-backed initiative saw 2,000 unemployed citizens of working age receive a more modest €560 a month in January 2017.
One proponent of UBI is U.S. billionaire Elon Musk who believes the scheme could be an adequate response to the inevitable continuous infringement of artificial intelligence in the workplace.
“UBI means that unemployed people will be paid across the globe,” Musk told a tech summit in Dubai back in 2017. “Machines, robots are taking over. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better,” he added.
Critics, however, consider the concept to be far too expensive to roll out nationally, would undermine productivity and prevent the government from investing in other priorities, as well as result in citizens relying even more on the state.