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COVID and a universal basic income

Updated: May 15


Mustardseed Trust supports work around our human, monetary and ecological systems. All three systems are being tested by the circumstances in which we are living through right now. Some might say that it is a consequence of our overstepping some of these boundaries that we find ourselves in the situation which we are in.


However we got here, we have to find a way out. Life as we knew it has stopped: for millions this means staying at home, for millions it means no home to stay in.


Millions of people across the globe are now without income as a consequence of the COVID virus. This virus has let us see the fragilities of some of the economies of the world: with their prosperity wholly dependent on consumption: without consumer consumption in some form: they are left with problems.


Many economies across the world – developed and developing - are unfortunately reliant on flexible workers, without contract or without employment protection; or parts of the economy are affected more than others due to restrictions on movement and free time. These restrictions and economic problems are leaving millions without any form of income. If there was ever a time that the world needed a fair system, ensuring that people's basic needs are met, it is now. The universal basic income movement advocates that a UBI is a solution during the COVID crisis and thereafter.


What is a Universal Basic Income (UBI)?


The Basic Income Earth Network, a close partner of Mustardseed, defines a universal basic income is:


“- a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement.

That is, basic income has the following five characteristics:

1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.

2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.

3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.

4. Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.

5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.”

COVID has given the Universal Basic Income movement even more impetus, with spiritual leaders, academics, the United Nations and business leaders across the globe calling for governments to support a UBI. Over 500 academics and public figures from across the globe have written an open letter, urging governments and financial institutions to support a global UBI.


This open letter is supported by some of our closest partners, Dr Sarath Davala (India Network for Basic Income, India) and Dr Guy Standing (Professorial Research associate, SOAS University of London, UK).




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