Towards a Basic Income M. Collins, TASC Conference Cork, September 2011.
Towards a Basic Income - Dr Micheál Collins NERI
Over the past four decades, despite economic booms and busts, Ireland's income distribution has remained remarkably static. Engrained in this income distribution structure is a high and sustained level of income inequality relative to our fellow EU and OECD member states. In 2009, the latest year that detailed national income data is available, the top 10% of Irish households received more than 10 times the share of the bottom 10%; indeed the income share of the top 10% exceeds the combined share of the bottom 50% of households.
The sustained nature and structure of this income inequality implies a need to consider if it is appropriate to adopt alternative redistributive policies. One such path, considered in this paper, is the adoption of a basic income system. A basic income is an unconditional cash transfer from the exchequer to all citizens on an individual basis. This paper considers the key challenges associated with any moves towards such a system, the appropriate level of the payment and the possible methods by which it would be financed.