Youth UBI fails to focus on real need
Only a few years ago I would have been eligible for the $200 a week Gareth Morgan’s party just announced they want to give to young New Zealanders. And even then, I wouldn’t have thought it’s a good idea.
The Opportunities Party’s proposed (or TOP) youth universal basic income (UBI) would give every 18-23-year-old $200 per week no matter their income, their parents’ income, or their plans for spending the money. The idea is that in giving this money to our young people transitioning into adulthood we can support them as they face the job market and periods of unemployment as well as some of the highest youth suicide rates in the developing world.
It is essential that we do support our young people as they face these very real struggles, but I don’t think TOP’s suggestion that cash for all of them is the shining solution they believe it is.
“I don’t think TOP’s suggestion that cash for all of them is the shining solution they believe it is.”
First, there’s no such thing as a free $200. The party has estimated that it will cost tax payers at least $3.39 billion each year.
Second, there’s no clear connection between a universal youth payment and solving the problems they’ve identified. High levels of unemployment and the horrific rate of suicide among our young people is tragic. But rather than providing resources to the community groups and organisations who are best able to help, an extra $200 each week given to every young person is like showering the population with antibiotics instead of providing healthcare programmes that work to prevent illness and assist people who are actually sick.
It’s also worth asking what happens on everyone’s 24th birthday. It seems their weekly budget has been suddenly slashed by $200. For those who have learnt to depend on that money for the essentials of food and rent this poses a bit of a problem. Not my idea of a great birthday present.
“We need to find solutions that do more than indiscriminately throwing money at an certain age-group and hoping that’ll solve it.”
We can’t ignore these very real problems our young people are struggling with, but we need to find solutions that do more than indiscriminately throwing money at an certain age-group and hoping that’ll solve it. We need solutions that will help our young people to find jobs or training for jobs, and solutions that support and encourage our young people struggling with depression. Programmes like Youth Connections are already helping young Aucklanders who were falling through the gaps find jobs or training to better equip them for jobs later on, while groups like FLO and Te Rau Matatini are working in their communities to provide the resources support in suicide prevention relevant to those communities.
These kinds of solutions might be more complex to get right, but encouraging, increasing and supporting these kinds of programmes is going to be a much more effective solution for our young people.
No doubt the offer of $200 a week will be attractive, but in offering money to everyone we dilute our ability to support those who are actually struggling. Better to make the effort to provide targeted and effective support.