Labour leader Andrew Little promises debate on universal basic income

Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard, construction tutor Len Matautia and Opposition Andrew Little talk to WelTec construction ...
Blake Crayton-Brown

Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard, construction tutor Len Matautia and Opposition Andrew Little talk to WelTec construction student Tuwhakaraua Taute.

The Labour Party is considering a universal basic income as part of its Future of Work project.

Leader Andrew Little confirmed his party was exploring the concept during a visit to Trevor Mallard's Hutt South electorate last week.

Little said significant changes to the way New Zealanders worked were unavoidable.

"The possibility of higher structural unemployment is actually what's driving us," he said.

Pure universal basic income (UBI) systems, in theory, would give adults a regular income from the government regardless of their income or assets.

They would replace other forms of welfare, such as pensions, benefits and student allowances.

Although only trialled on small scale overseas, the idea is that a UBI would be set at a level which people could subsist on, but not at a high enough level to serve as a significant disincentive to work.

Little said a UBI would be discussed at Labour's Future of Work conference at the end of March.

"We expect that in the future world of work there will be at least a portion of the workforce that will rapidly move in and out of work," he said.

"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."

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He said it was time for a debate on a UBI.

"We are keen to have that debate about whether the time has arrived for us to have a system that is seamless, easy to pass through, [with a] guaranteed basic income and [where] you can move in and out of work on a regular basis."

Little said advances in technology and changes in personal preferences would affect how people chose to work.

"They're going to move rapidly in and out of multiple jobs over a period of time but there could be some weeks where they get little or no income.

"But they need a basis on which they can go through the down periods as well as enjoy the up periods."

Little said a UBI would make navigating such a work pattern "much easier".

 - Hutt News

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