Should the Universal Church support a universal basic income?

Philip Booth, Professor of Finance, Public Policy and Ethics at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, looks at the arguments for providing universal income in light of Catholic Social Teaching.

In a letter published on Easter Sunday 2020 and issued to ‘Brothers and Sisters of Popular Movements and Organizations’, Pope Francis suggested that we consider the provision of a universal basic income. Addressing the problems of people without regular incomes he said:

Street vendors, recyclers, carnies, small farmers, construction workers, dressmakers, the different kinds of caregivers: you who are informal, working on your own or in the grassroots economy, you have no steady income to get you through this hard time ... This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out. It would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.1

This statement received a huge amount of attention. This was not surprising given that the question of a universal basic income is widely discussed in the secular world. It is perhaps the first time any Catholic leader has indicated support for such a policy. Indeed, if this idea were to be part of the formal body of Catholic Social Teaching, it would be a significant innovation.

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