A proposal for the Government to give young Kiwis $200 a week with "no questions asked" is no more controversial than giving elderly people a pension, The Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan says.
People aged between 18 and 23 would be given an "unconditional" basic income under his party's policy announced today, without income-testing, drug-testing, or any other hurdles.
The fledgling party has already proposed its own version of a universal basic income (UBI) for over-65s and families with children under three, and said economic forecasts now meant it was possible to extend it to a section of society which had been "badly neglected" by successive governments.
"They are subject to quite a lot of stress, we can see it in the mental illness statistics for that group, we can see if in the youth suicide statistics, drug abuse, all that stuff," Morgan said.
"This transition from the nest to being independent is not that easy."
Announcing the policy at a Wellington café today, Morgan said introducing a basic income would mean overcoming not only political but cultural barriers. Many New Zealanders wrongly assumed that non-workers were "non-human" and "a bunch of layabouts", he said.
There were 1 million Kiwis who went to work every day "and don't paid", he said, referring to stay-at-home parents and caregivers.
Morgan was asked about the inevitable resistance to a UBI from people who felt it was subsiding teenagers' trips to the pub. The same argument could be applied to superannuitants who treated their pension as "an excuse to buy a motorboat" or travel overseas, he said.
Morgan has previously said TOP would replace superannuation with the same basic income of $10,000 a year, reducing the pension from between $15,000 and $20,000. The UBI would also replace paid parental leave and the parental tax credit.
A UBI has been trialled in the Netherlands, Finland and Canada but is yet to gain traction in New Zealand.
Labour considered it as part of its Future of Work programme - which looked at ways to cope with the rise of automation and disruptive technologies - but did not formally adopt it as a policy.
Finance Minister Steven Joyce said today a UBI would send the wrong message to young people at time when there were "so many jobs" and regions were "crying out" for workers.
It is not the time to be saying "Here, have $200 a week and don't do anything", he said.
Morgan. however, said "revolutionary" tax and welfare changes were needed to cope with the growing insecurity of the workplace and the threat of automation to jobs.
The changes proposed by National, Labour and the Greens in recent weeks did nothing to prepare the country for this uncertain future and simply preserved the status quo, he said.
"This is a revolution. We are saying that people in an affluent society like this are owed a duty of being able to live in dignity."
"And UBI without [the] horrible criteria of eligibility and making people jump through hoops is the only way to do this."
UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME for 18 to 23-year-olds
• $10,000 a year
• 338,000 people eligible
• Total cost of $3.39 billion
• Paid for by getting rid of student allowances, living costs and some welfare costs, while scrapping tax cuts and spending budget surplus.