Today is Budget day in Ireland. After many years of austerity, there is now a growing optimism and improving indicators from the economy, with IBEC recently predicting 6% growth next year. The budget will be published this afternoon, but it is widely expected to ease the tax burden and avoid any further cuts.
The improved economic situation is the perfect time to discuss the implementation of a Universal Basic Income. In 2011, Social Justice Ireland produced the paper ‘Basic Income – Why and How in Difficult Economic Times: Financing a BI in Ireland‘ which outlined an affordable method of implementing a Basic Income in Ireland at the height of the crisis. The method they outlined in detail was a proposed flat income tax coupled with a Social Solidarity Fund that would not be a new charge but rather would replace the employer’s PRSI charge. Other benefits would not be affected. As the Basic Income Ireland introductory leaflet makes clear, this would result in a net tax rate of only 18% for a single person on an average wage, with greater benefit for couples who can share resources. This method would leave everyone better off except for the most wealthy. And remember, this report was published in 2011, at the height of the recession. With increased tax take, Ireland should now be even better able to afford this system than when the paper was published.
Despite the improving economy, Ireland still has a huge unemployment rate of 11.1%, with youth unemployment at a striking 25.2%, up since April this year. These figures don’t tell the hardship that individuals and families have to go through to try make ends meet, the mental illness which is associated with unemployment, the lost opportunities, the stress of the Department of Social Welfare breathing down your back and the many other issues associated with our current social welfare system. We now have a fantastic opportunity to relieve this hardship as our economy is stronger and better able to ensure a dignified, poverty-free life for everyone.
Basic Income won’t be mentioned at this budget, but we must now start the conversation. Join Basic Income Ireland, start mentioning Basic Income to your friends, text in to radio and TV shows mentioning it or send letters to your TD. We live in 2014, a time of great worldwide wealth and technological advancement, it is long past time to ensure a dignified, poverty-free life for all.