Inquiry: DWP’s preparations for changes in the world of work

Posted on June 19, 2020

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UBI Lab Leeds and UBI Lab Network strongly encourage all supporters of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to submit their views to the Work and Pensions Committee of the UK Parliament.

You may find the following information useful for your submission.

The closing date for submissions is Monday 29th June!

Introduction

The Work and Pensions Committee is launching an inquiry to look at how prepared the Department for Work and  Pensions (DWP) and its Jobcentre Plus network is for changes in the world of work brought about by new technology.

The Committee would like to hear about the challenges DWP faces as a result of technological change, the extent to which it is already prepared for these, and what further changes might be needed to best support claimants in the future world of work

Guidance

You may find the following websites helpful for your submission:

Introductory details and terms of reference:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2017/dwp-preparation-for-changes-in-work-inquiry-launch-19-21/

Current members of the Work and Pensions Committee:

https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee/membership/

Report on Inquiry into the merits of Citizens’ Income ( now called UBI) by the same committee in 2017:

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/793/793.pdf

Citizens’ Income Inquiry session at Birmingham University held in January 2017.  This was an important part of the evidence of an enquiry and may be useful background material.

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Councillor Patrick Hurley of the City of Liverpool and a member of the UBI Lab Network has provided a proposal how to address the questions related to UBI. The inquiry questions are presented in bold and his answers follow:

What are the main challenges that DWP faces as a result of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”?

There are four main challenges DWP faces as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They are:

What do we know about the possible likely impact on the labour market? For example: Are some sectors or types of jobs more likely to be affected than others? Are some groups of people more likely to be affected than others? What new types of jobs and opportunities could become available? Is it likely that there will be a reduction in the number of jobs available?

What we can reasonably assume, based on previous industrial changes, is that some sectors will be wiped out completely, and others will thrive. What we can’t say at this point is which grouping any particular sector will fall into. Given that lack of knowledge of the future, it’s best to take a universalist approach to DWP’s  work, and look to support individuals across the board rather than target support around specific sectors. We believe that the number of jobs available will necessarily be reduced, due to the extent and quality of automation. This is not a bad thing. Automation of household chores during the 20th century freed people from many tens of thousands of hours of drudgery across their lives. Automation is an opportunity to grasp, not a threat to be afraid of. What would be most appropriate in these circumstances is the loosening of the ties between the wages system and the consumption function. 

Is there a need to consider new, long-term approaches to addressing change in the labour market: for example, introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI)? Is UBI an appropriate short-term response to shocks in the labour market? 

Yes, there needs to be a thorough overhaul in the medium to long term of the system of government support for individuals. A system of payments to each individual at a subsistence level – whether called a UBI or a Negative Income Tax, or any other name – and subsequently clawed back at a reasonable level of income tax to ensure that higher earners do not benefit directly in financial terms could achieve three imperatives. Firstly, it could feasibly be close to cost neutral in fiscal terms, it could provide resilience and security quickly to people’s changing and ever-shifting economic circumstances, and it could improve dynamic risk-taking perspectives with regard to innovation in the economy.

What can the Government learn from the international evidence on UBI?

The government should study carefully the results of the recent Finland trials of UBI. They provided strong positive evidence on a range of variables. Government could also learn that universalism as a response to the coronavirus pandemic could have removed the problems associated with the various different schemes for workers, self-employed, small businesses and others.

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UBI Lab Leeds would like to encourage all people to respond to this DWP  inquiry with your stories and perspectives. You may find the following briefing document about UBI useful for your response: UBI Information Briefing from the UBI Lab Network.

Thank you for your submission

Reinhard Huss (Chair UBI Lab Leeds)