Has coronavirus changed the basic income debate?

BBC News

A basic income system would provide every individual in the country with a cash payment at regular intervals, without any requirement to work or qualify for it.

This payment would be given to every citizen regardless of their wealth, employment or personal status. A range of different figures have been suggested, but it would be enough to cover the basics of life and would serve as a replacement for all existing benefit payments.

There have long been debates about whether this would be a guaranteed safety net that would expand freedom of choice and cut bureaucracy in the welfare system, or a ruinously expensive incentive for people to do less work.

Up until now, in the UK at least, it has chiefly been chin-stroking fodder for think tank round-tables and discussion papers.

But the coronavirus pandemic has sparked unprecedented changes in the interaction between state and citizenry, with the UK government's furlough scheme covering the salaries of a quarter of the workforce. This has led some to ask whether the time has come to implement a basic income system for all.

The pandemic has caused some form of financial difficulty for vast numbers of people, and there have been particular challenges for the self-employed and small business owners.

Paula Saunders runs her own travel agency, but said things "started to fall apart" as the pandemic spread - leaving her with no income.

"Over the course of a weekend that was it, everything I had worked so hard for just disappeared," she said.

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