An unconditional basic income could help reignite hope in a large group of young people’s lives who feel they have nothing to live for.
With 750,000 young people feeling they have nothing to live for, what can we do to correct the balance and reignite hope?
A recent survey conducted by the Prince’s Trust revealed that 750,000 thousand young NEETs (people not in employment, education or training) feel they have nothing to live for. 1/3 of those same young people have admitted to contemplating suicide and 1/4 have self-harmed. 40% have developed mental health problems. Incidentally, this figure of 750,000 is a 1000 times more people than have bought houses through the Tories’ help-to-buy policy. So while vast swathes of the nation’s youth feel their lives lack meaning and have been essentially abandoned to that fate by government, at least housing prices are kept inflated.
The argument is that these young people need help to find employment. There are arguments that this demand is unrealistic: there are less jobs around – for multiple reasons – and therefore less chance of finding employment. Examples abound: a Costa coffee opened up in Nottingham advertising for 9 jobs and over 1,000 people applied. There are further arguments that the market, being unable to account for so much of what we do for one another, should not be made the final arbiter regarding the value of our contributions. Housework, care in the community, volunteer work all go unrecognised when employment is the yardstick for our effort.
But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that jobs can be created. They are not there at the moment but the future might bring them in some form or other. The green economy is often promoted because of the cornucopia of employment opportunities it promises to bring.
But what do we do in the meantime? How do we treat young people in light of the current absence of opportunity?
The sanctions, conditions and punitive measures brought in to ‘help’ these people does nothing of the sort. The policies this government has introduced in the name of welfare devours the self-esteem of a great many vulnerable people, rids them of hope for the future and builds up problems that will be with us for decades. Those 750,000 people have partners, parents, siblings and friends who will all be touched by their suffering.
How to avoid this cruelty?
The introduction of an unconditional basic income, an amount of money guaranteed to all people regardless of their employment status or even whether they are looking for work would help civilise economic trends. Rather than assume that this will lead to idle lives of even less value, this policy is informed by the (informed) intuition that people will find other means to contribute. Freed from the impossible task of finding work in an economy that structurally cannot endure full-employment, individuals will figure out alternative means to reciprocate other’s efforts and thereby contribute to the commonweal.
This is not utopian thinking. Pilot studies throughout the world (in India for example) have proven that a basic income complements productivity and contribution. Rather than destroy a work-ethic it simply re-engineers it. It is precisely this re-engineering that is being denied by the current sado-sanctions employed by a government that lacks even a trace of sympathy/empathy for the poor and vulnerable.
But hey! At least those 750,000 people now have a mortgage!
Sign the initiative and more importantly tell everyone you know to sign it we are running out of time to get the votes in.