New Zealand could become one of the first developed countries to scrap benefits and introduce a basic citizens’ income.
Leader of the opposition Andrew Little said his Labour party was considering the idea as part of proposals to combat the “possibility of higher structural unemployment”.
Citizens’ income, also known as Universal Basic Income (UBI), involves a basic, unconditional, fixed payment made to every person in the country by the state in lieu of benefits.
Mr Little confirmed his party would debate the idea at its conference on employment at the end of March.
He said significant changes to way people worked were “unavoidable” and “we expect that in the future world of work there will be at least a portion of the workforce that will rapidly move in and out of work”.
He told New Zealand news website Stuff: “The question is whether you have an income support system that means every time you stop work you have to go through the palaver of stand-down periods, more bureaucracy, more form filling at the same time as you’re trying to get into your next job.
“We are keen to have that debate about whether the time has arrived for us to have a system that is seamless, easy to pass through, [with a] guaranteed basic income and [where] you can move in and out of work on a regular basis.”
The debate does not mean the policy will be included in the party’s manifesto at the next general election – which is likely to take place next year – or that the ruling National party will consider the proposals.