A UK 'Basic Income'? Testing the Limits of Universality
Journal of Social Security Law 2020 Vol 27(2)
23 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2020 Last revised: 24 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 6, 2020
Proponents of Basic Income (BI) argue that BI schemes can deliver universal, unconditional support more effectively than conventional social security programmes. This paper examines that claim. Consideration is given to the form BI schemes can take, and their attractions, before turning to the concerns. These include issues around popular support, fiscal feasibility, and the potentially negative distributional outcomes for those lower down the income distribution or who are reliant on targeted programmes in key areas like housing, childcare, disability, and in-work support – particularly if a BI scheme displaces (or partially displaces) such programmes. There have been important evaluations. Nevertheless, further work is needed before firm conclusions on the merits of BI schemes can be reached. In the meantime, as many States, including the UK, implement massive income replacement schemes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, calls to adopt simpler, more universal BI-type schemes can be expected to grow. In the UK, much of the focus will be on the performance of Universal Credit.
Keywords: Universal Basic Income, UBI attractions and concerns, Fiscal feasibility, Displacement of social security schemes, Distributional outcomes, International BI experiences, ILO views, BI evaluations and testing, Covid-19 pandemic, Wage and income replacement, Universal Credit as UK safety-net
JEL Classification: K, J
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation