Universal Basic Income Could Make Poverty Worse, OECD Study Finds

World's richest countries believe unconditional cash payments could hurt the people it's designed to help.

June 8, 2017 11:22 am
Universal Basic Income
Robert Smith inspects sheets of the new 100 USD bills for imperfections after going through the plate printing step of production at the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility on October 11, 2013 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

A technique to improve economic equality may actually do the opposite.

Universal basic income would increase poverty, according to a new study from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In three out of four counties, they predict poverty levels would actually rise by one percent.

Instead of need-based benefits, the strategy would be for countries with universal basic income to disperse unconditional cash payments to its citizens. It’s an idea that’s been around for a while but has gained attention recently as automation threatens an increasingly unstable labor market.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg both expressed support for the notion.

For most high-income nations, however, the OECD report concluded that universal basic income would make poverty worse through a scenario that generates the money by converting all existing benefits for everyone under 65 years old.

Quartz reports that the study recommends benefits should be evaluated on a needs basis. Universal basic income would create a system that provides benefits to the neediest in a less accurate way than it currently does, while increasing taxes for everyone.

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