Why is a Basic Income paid periodically?

Why is a Basic Income paid periodically?

In the third instalment of our series of blogs covering Basic Income FAQs and core principles, Cleo Goodman, one of the founders of Basic Income Conversation, answers questions about why a Basic Income is paid regularly and not as a one-off payment. You can read the first two in the series – about Basic Income and cash payments here, and the universality of Basic Income here – with more to come on other topics over the next few weeks. 

This blog is concerned with the question: Why is a Basic Income paid periodically?

A regular payment you can depend on

A Basic Income is paid regularly. “Well duh” I hear you cry. It is an income and for most of us, incomes are paid in weekly or monthly instalments.

But it’s important to specify! If you don’t define Basic Income as a periodic, repeating payment you could end up with all sorts of one-off payments being called a Basic Income. With all this work going into securing a Basic Income as a transformative policy that underpins our economy, we don’t want to get short changed with a one-off payment on a technicality.

For a Basic Income to make a deep impact on people’s lives it needs to be something they can depend on. A payment they are guaranteed during feast or famine, regardless of anything going on in their life or the wider world. Their Basic Income will always land in a few days or weeks to cover their basic needs.

The problem with annual payments

Technically, a Basic Income can be paid annually. If it’s paid every year then it is a Basic Income.

And in fact, this is how the Alaska’s Basic Income is paid. Since 1982 people living in Alaska have been receiving an annual payment from the Alaska Permanent Fund. Funded mostly through revenue generated from oil the annual payment has ranged from $331.29 to $2,072.

But there are issues with lump sum payments like this. After payments are made there are increases in substance abuse, injury and even death. This trend occurs for many kinds of lump sum payments including salaries and social security benefits, it’s not exclusive to Basic Income. It just means the safer option is a weekly or monthly payment.

What difference would it make to you?

For many a Basic Income would be the most regular income they’ve ever had. People in piecemeal gig economy work and those dependent on conditional social security would be given a solid floor to walk on. And for many more it would be a springboard that provided them with the security they need to make decisions about their own life that would take them where they really want to be. This might be a career change, a much needed break, an investment of time in their education or making the choice to prioritise family over paid work.

A periodic Basic Income to depend on would mean something different to everyone, and that’s the beauty of it.

Cleo Goodman, Basic Income Network Scotland partner 

Image credit: “Business Calendar & Schedule” by photosteve101 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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