Tackling Poverty the Left Way

Universal basic income, recently adopted by Finland, of special interest as Scotland considers trials in Glasgow and Fife.

With relative poverty rates on the rise in Scotlands most populated city, Glasgow City Council contemplates the possibility of introducing a universal basic income rate for a trial period.

The most recent figures show that relative poverty in Glasgow is currently at a staggering 820,000 individuals, an increase of 110,000 between 2011 to 2013. Child poverty rates are among the highest across the UK at 19% and showing no sign of decline.

Glasgow City Councillor Matt Kerr has shared his opinion regarding the failings of the UK welfare system to tackle the issue of poverty, highlighting the complexity of benefits as a major downfall. The universal basic income approach, however, would simplify this system and raise living standards for the poorest of Glaswegians. Kerr points out that

“we’re working against a whole discourse of deserving and undeserving poor.”

Which is embedded in the very threads of the current benefits system, with benefit sanctions being unfairly imposed and strict application of eligibility criteria, he therefore anticipates opposition to the proposed policy.

Looking overseas to Finland, there is an example to be utilised by British politicians currently considering the universal income approach. A sample of 2000 Finnish citizens are now entitled to a base line income, regardless of their employment status, which is hoped will boost employment rates and reduce poverty. The injection of a monthly total of 560 euros began on the 1st of January and appeals to the Left particularly as it is designed to elevate the socioeconomically destitute from the bottom of society in a non-selective fashion.

With the anticipated return to the Left in the Labour Party, led by socialist Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell discusses the possibility of including a basic income rate in the party’s next manifesto. Furthermore the SNP voted for a basic income rate at their latest party conference. Whether the policy appears in either manifesto remains to be seen.

This compassionate move in Finland will serve as a crucial source of research to predict the policy’s reception and success in the UK. A trial implementation in Glasgow and Fife would bolster the findings. For the time being there are a host of unanswerable questions, however tackling poverty the Left way is seemingly making a return to the political agenda.

Figures from the Scottish Government: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/07/9247/2

Image source: Wefare Weekly

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