On Monday, New Zealand’s Labor Party leader, Andrew Little, announced that the country will consider implementing a version of the system, known formally as “basic income.”
The party will discuss the feasibility of basic income at the Future of Work conference later this month.
With worsening income and wealth inequality afflicting many industrialized countries, many see basic income as the radical solution that could finally level the playing field.
Little said on Monday that New Zealand’s particular case involves the issue of structural unemployment. People are increasingly choosing to move in and out of employment — either because of family responsibilities or other personal preferences.
“The question is whether you have an income support system that means every time you stop work you have to go through the palaver of stand-down periods, more bureaucracy, more form filling at the same time as you’re trying to get into your next job,” he told Stuff.
In theory, basic income’s regular monthly allowance would give people the flexibility to work as they please without compelling them to quit their jobs altogether.
Supported by the financial safety net, people in one 2013 study actually worked 17% longer hours and received 38% higher earnings when basic income was given a shot. Critics of the system say that the tax increases that help pay for people’s basic income will cause the cost of living to rise overall, possibly negating the system’s benefit.
In Finland, a new monthly basic income will be just shy of $900. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, it’ll be closer to $1,000, although neither country has started handing out checks yet. Ontario, Canada, recently announced a basic-income plan, but has yet to discuss the exact dollar amount or how many people will participate in its experiment.
New Zealand’s plan is even earlier in the process, but according to Little, a debate is overdue. A universal basic income stands as the most viable solution for the country’s growing need for flexible working conditions, since people receive money no matter what.
That idea is certainly controversial, but with the recent surge in countries considering basic income, some day laggard nations may seem like the odd ones out.