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Treasury officials join calls for universal basic income

Newshub logoNewshub 3/08/2018 Jenna Lynch
© Image - Getty ; Video - Newshub New Zealand Treasury officials have joined former US President Barack Obama in calling for the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) to be considered.

The UBI is a wage paid to all working age adults by the Government, no matter what they earn, and has been trialled in Europe.

Documents obtained by Newshub show Treasury officials recommended the Government to investigate the policy through its welfare advisory group.

However Finance Minister Grant Robertson isn't keen on the idea.

"The welfare advisory group's looking at the overall issue of income adequacy and I'm sure it would be within their power to look at an issue like that, but this Government's made clear that it is not on our agenda," he told Newshub.

That's even if the working group were to recommend it.

One of the arguments for a universal income is that as technology evolves, people will lose their jobs to machines. A basic income would offer financial protection.

It has been trialled in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada, but no country has successfully implemented it.

In New Zealand, both the business sector and the unions are open to the concept.

"If it's part of how a society can transition to a different set of working circumstances, then at some point we will have to think about considering it," Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said.

Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said the idea was attractive, but there were issues around how it would be set.

Even with the unions, business sector and Treasury open to the idea, the Government is yet to commit - and for good reason.

It's a pretty radical idea to give money to everyone, from the homeless to billionaires.

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