Rise in insecure work means universal basic income needed more than ever, Government told

Over 100,000 more people are on zero hours contracts than this time last year 

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Friday 03 March 2017 13:12
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Some 910,000 people are on zero hours contracts, including Deliveroo riders
Some 910,000 people are on zero hours contracts, including Deliveroo riders

The Government should respond to the increasing proliferation of “zero-hours” contracts by piloting a universal basic income, the Green Party has said.

New figures based on an analysis of Office for National Statistics data revealed that 910,000 people are in the insecure jobs – 105,000 more than last year, up 14 per cent year-on-year and 30 per cent higher than 2014. In 2005, there were just 100,000 people recorded as being on such contracts.

The Resolution Foundation, which conducted the research, said the rate of increase of the contracts appeared to have slowed in the last half of 2016. This coincided with campaigns against insecure work bearing fruit and major employers switching to contracts with stable hours.

Jonathan Bartley, the Green party’s co-leader, said the economy was clearly entering a “new age of insecurity” and that radical policies were needed to address it.

The Greens have long advocated a flat unconditional payment or “basic income” to all citizens; an idea which has since gained traction elsewhere.

“An economy that works for all does not look like this,” Mr Bartley said. “The gig economy can provide flexibility but without proper protection for workers we are entering a new age of insecurity.

“The rate at which zero-hours contracts is spreading may have slowed but the top-line figure is at a record high and the fight to ensure everyone has a secure job so they can build a life is more important than ever.

“The economy and work itself are rapidly changing, and new technologies mean the workspace of the future does not look like that of the past. We need to keep up, and we need bold ideas to tackle the insecurity of the 21st century and the new economy.

“The Government should follow Finland’s lead and pilot a basic income – a regular, non-means tested payment made to everyone. This would provide people with real security to pursue meaningful employment, reward unpaid work and look to the future – not the past.”

Countries and municipalities including Finland, and the Dutch city of Utrecht are conducting trials of basic incomes, but the British Government has been resistant to the idea.

Last year ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions rejected the idea of a universal basic income as “unaffordable”.

“Universal Credit is the right system for the United Kingdom,” Damian Hinds, the Minister of State for the DWP, told a parliamentary debate at the time.

“This is a responsible government that implemented a system that encourages work, supports the most vulnerable and is affordable.”

Labour’s shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has suggested his party could look at the idea of piloting the policy, though he has yet to make any firm commitment.

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