DURBAN – The immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people could slow the current surge in Covid-19, this is according to a report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The agency describes it as a “feasible” measure that is urgently needed, with the pandemic continuing to infect more than 1.5 million per week, particularly in developing countries, where seven out of ten workers make a living through informal markets, and cannot earn money if they are stuck at home.
“Many of the huge numbers of people not covered by social insurance programmes are informal workers, low-waged, women and young people, refugees and migrants, and people with disabilities – and they are the ones hardest hit by this crisis”, said UNDP in a press release issued along with the report.
In South Africa, the pandemic prompted president Cyril Ramaphosa to announce a temporary top-up of those grants by up to R300, including a R350 unemployment grant, in late March. Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu has announced that the country will introduce a universal basic income grant as part of a range of packages to help the country’s unemployed.
“Bailouts and recovery plans cannot only focus on big markets and big business. A Temporary Basic Income might enable governments to give people in lockdown a financial lifeline, inject cash back into local economies to help keep small businesses afloat, and slow the devastating spread of Covid-19,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
UNDP has carried out assessments on the socio-economic effects of Covid-19 in more than 60 countries since the pandemic began, with data confirming that workers who lack benefits, have no choice but to venture outdoors, putting themselves and their families at risk.
Several countries have already begun to embrace the concept. The West African State of Togo has distributed over $19.5 million in monthly financial aid to over 12 percent of the population through its cash transfer programme, mostly to women who work in the informal sector.
Spain recently approved a monthly budget of €250 million to top up the incomes of 850,000 vulnerable families and 2.3 million individuals, up to a minimum threshold.
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