I recently noticed an article from Stuff claiming that teenage beneficiaries on government programs are being left with no cash or freedom to live as they wish. As a young person myself, this is yet another example of our humiliating benefit system.
The working life of young people can be dynamic. In today’s gig economy, we can be in and out of work in a matter of weeks. Or working part-time, picking up odd jobs while we wait for university to start, or training on-site with some tradie mates. We are at an age when we start making important choices about our future.
Yet at the same time we have to interact with the benefit system, which is like having another part-time job filling out paperwork. It is bureaucratic, the rules are arbitrary, and many of the decisions are unjust. Young people experience enough financial limitations as it is. Throwing in administrative pressures and restrictive measures is a great way of killing our passion for life. No wonder mental health problems are on the rise.
The current approach from Labour and National is to set up youth programs and training courses and pay us student allowances or benefits with bureaucratic strings attached – without even knowing what young people actually want!
But The Opportunities Party (TOP) has an idea that I believe could change this situation.
TOP’s youth unconditional basic income (UBI) plan is to give $200/week to everyone between the ages of 18 to 23. This could give all young people a fair chance and a financial buffer to fall back on when most needed. You’d be handing us freedom and responsibility in the shape of a few dollar bills without needing the Government to breathe down our necks.
If I had that type of financial cushion, I would definitely try to rent a house with some of my mates. It would be easier for us to rent too, since we would all still be able to work wherever and whenever we choose without losing the UBI. A youth UBI could ensure that young people like myself, who will form the foundation of society as adults, have opportunities to truly start managing our own lives as we go to university, start a business, jump into a trade, or get a job. Freedom and accountability can be considered driving factors of success in the corporate world, so why shouldn’t we encourage the same values in our youth?
And if you’re worried about us only buying alcohol and weed, well some of us might, but the evidence shows that zoomers and millennials are actually not that bad with finances. An American study showed that when given a UBI, less than 1% of the money was spent at stores that sell alcohol and tobacco, which demonstrated that people won’t just waste all of it.
Although as a country we are also facing many other challenges, such as unaffordable housing, our current welfare system is killing young people’s passion and drive for self-development. Instead, we could enable them to have more freedom, be more creative, and – best of all – follow their own pathway in life. This teaches independence and good money habits, and develops a sense of responsibility. These are positives that will only increase as we grow into adults.
TOP’s youth UBI plan can deliver.
About the author:
Arthur Koutsaenko, also known as Artie Kouts, is an 18 year old West Aucklander with a highly optimistic outlook on life and the universe. After the 2017 general election, he became highly interested in TOP and is currently looking forward to a Urban Planning (Honours) degree at UoA.