Mark Zuckerberg calls for universal basic income - paid for by people like him

Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has used his commencement address at Harvard to say people like him should pay so everyone can receive an income, regardless of their employment status.

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining traction in recent years, with trials launched in Canada, Finland and Scotland.

The idea behind the UBI is that everyone gets a set amount of money each week, no strings attached. It doesn't depend on your income, employment status, family situation or age.

"We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas," Mr Zuckerberg said.

"We're going to change jobs many times, so we need affordable childcare to get to work and healthcare that isn't tied to one company. We're all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us up or stigmatising us.

"And as technology keeps changing, we need a society that focuses more on continuous education throughout our lives."

Proponents of the UBI say it will allow people to start businesses without worrying about how they're going to pay for food and rent; reduce inequality; let people work fewer hours in low-paying jobs; and even reduce the size of the welfare bureaucracy.

Here in New Zealand the Labour Party has brought up the possibility of introducing a UBI, while Gareth Morgan's TOP Party has it as policy - saying superannuation could be slashed to fund it.

Former Prime Minister John Key called the idea "barking mad".

It would cost a fortune, of course, regardless of what benefits it might bring - but with inequality rising in the West and millions expected to lose their jobs to automation in the coming decades, Mr Zuckerberg says it's time people with wealth paid up.

"Giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn't free. People like me should pay for it. Many of you will do well and you should too."