“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented social and economic measures...This might have seemed impossible just a few months ago.” - UNDP Chief Achim Steiner
The immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people could slow the current surge in COVID-19 and enable close to three billion people to stay at home, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released on Thursday.
Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries, estimates that it would cost governments upwards of $199 billion per month, to provide what UNDP describes as “a time-bound, guaranteed basic income, to the 2.7 billion people living below or just above the poverty line in 132 developing countries.”
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.
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.
A Temporary Basic Income would give them the means to buy food and pay for health and education expenses, said UNDP.
It is also a realistic fiscal move: a six-month Temporary Basic Income, for example, would require just 12 percent of the total financial response to COVID-19 expected in 2020, said UNDP, which is the equivalent of just one-third of what developing countries owe, in external debt payments through 2020.