Introducing a temporary basic income for the world’s poorest people will not only give them the means to buy food and medicine, but could also help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stresses in a new report released on Thursday.
The report, Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries, advocates for a time-bound and unconditional cash transfer to serve as a minimum income guarantee for 2.7 billion people living under or near the poverty line in 132 developing countries.
The Temporary Basic Income, or TBI, is estimated to cost from $199bn to $465bn a month depending on how it is structured, and can last nine to 12 months – or longer if needed – as governments get to grips with the coronavirus pandemic that is currently spreading globally at a rate of 1.6 million new cases per week.
“We need to take it up a notch,” George Gray Molina, one of the report’s authors, told Al Jazeera.
“In the absence of unemployment insurance, in the absence of furloughs, in the absence of social protection, what we’ll see is an incredible drop in incomes and livelihoods for the poorest people around the world,” he said. “The size of that drop is in the hundreds of millions of people.”
Developing countries, which may have already been burdened with political and socioeconomic challenges prior to the pandemic, are ill-equipped to deal with mass unemployment as a result of government-sanctioned lockdowns, UNDP says.
Many workers in developing countries also work in the informal economy and are not captured by official unemployment figures. According to the International Labour Organization, seven out of 10 workers in developing countries earn a living in the informal economy. Many of them are domestic workers, underpaid and unpaid care workers, and refugees and migrants without access to social safety nets.