Do you think a basic income for all should replace social welfare?

An international conference has heard a proposal for a Basic Income of €150 a week for everyone of working age in Ireland to resolve welfare and work challenges in the country.

Basic Income is a payment from the State to every resident on an individual basis, without any means test or work requirement. A full Basic Income would be sufficient to live a "frugal but decent lifestyle" without supplementary income from paid employment, according to the conference.

Details were provided of experiments in Finland at a national level and in the Netherlands, focused on 12 cities, at the conference organised by Social Justice Ireland in Croke Park today.

Dr Seán Healy, Director of Social Justice Ireland, said: "Basic Income provides the key to resolving major challenges that changes to welfare and work have brought in the twenty first century.

"It has the potential to reduce bureaucracy dramatically and increase respect for care work while promoting entrepreneurship and engagement with education, among other things."

Eamon Murphy and Seán Ward presented details of a fully-costed Basic Income for Ireland of €150 a week for everyone of working age, with a top-up of €38 a week for those actively seeking work.

This would be combined with a higher Basic Income for all older people equivalent to the contributory old-age pension and a payment for all children equivalent to the level of Child Benefit.

They claimed the system would eliminate most of the current welfare system but would be combined with a Social Solidarity Fund to cover special needs. It could be financed by a flat tax of 40% and a slight increase in employers’ PRSI.

An alternative approach, set out by Michael Taft of the Unite union, would see the introduction of a Partial Basic Income for Ireland by transforming personal tax credits into a cash payment to all adults.

This would give everyone a payment of €3,300 per year and would require no changes in the tax or welfare systems.

A third approach presented at the conference by Ronan Lyons of Trinity College would see a Partial Basic Income introduced as a universal housing subsidy.

Participants heard that public policy should now focus on delivering seven core rights for everyone i.e. sufficient income, meaningful work, real participation, appropriate accommodation, relevant education, essential healthcare and cultural respect. A review of the current situation presented at the conference showed these rights are not available to a great many EU citizens.

Seán Healy said: "Given recent political developments in the UK and the US it is essential that we in the EU face up to the need for change if large numbers of people are not to be excluded.

"Basic Income is a key component of a future where these core rights are available in practice to all."

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