Dr Luke Martinelli, Research Associate
Interest in universal basic income has been intensifying lately, with a discernible proliferation of opinion pieces in the mainstream press. While the reasons for the increased awareness are up for debate, it has surely been fuelled by an increasingly precarious global economic outlook, with rising inequality, the growth of in-work poverty alongside worklessness and underemployment, and the impending claimed obsolescence of labour due to automation all posited as problems with which existing welfare state institutions are ill-equipped to cope. The idea, popular among social democrats and libertarian thinkers alike, is simply to provide everyone with an unconditional income, without intrusive means-testing and work requirements: to provide, in the words of basic income’s long-standing advocate Philippe Van Parijs, “a floor on which [people] can stand, because it can be combined with earnings, rather than a net in which they can easily get stuck”.
In any case, basic income – for decades an abstract idea at the margins of the welfare debate – may soon become reality in a number of European countries. Finland and the Netherlands have already opted to trial basic income schemes in the coming years, and this Sunday, Switzerland will hold a national referendum on whether to introduce legislation to pay each of its citizens a proposed 2500 SFr. per month.
At the IPR, as part of a project assessing the case for a universal basic income in the UK context, we are following these developments keenly. This week we were delighted to welcome Jurgen De Wispelaere, a member of the working group advising the Finnish government on the upcoming experiment, to share his considerable expertise in an informal seminar. view Jurgen’s presentation.