Self-Employed Surfers, Universal Credit and the Minimally Decent Life

Legal Studies, Forthcoming

39 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2021

See all articles by Christopher Rowe

Christopher Rowe

University of Sheffield - Faculty of Law

Date Written: August 2, 2020


As part of the response to COVID-19 the government paused the use of the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF), which restricts the Universal Credit (UC) entitlement of the self-employed. This paper places the MIF in the wider context of conditionality in the social security system and considers a judicial review which claimed that the MIF was discriminatory. The paper focuses on how UC affects the availability of real choices for low-income citizens to limit or escape from wage labour, with two implications of the move to UC highlighted. First, the overlooked labour decommodifying aspect of tax credits, which provided a minimum income guarantee and a genuine alternative to wage labour for people who self-designated as ‘self-employed’, even if their earnings were minimal or non-existent, has been removed. Second, UC has in some respects improved the position of low-paid wage labourers in ‘mini-jobs’, who are not subject to conditionality once they work for the equivalent of approximately nine hours a week on the minimum wage.

Keywords: Social Security Law; Social Rights; Discrimination; Universal Credit; Basic Income

Suggested Citation

Rowe, Christopher, Self-Employed Surfers, Universal Credit and the Minimally Decent Life (August 2, 2020). Legal Studies, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Rowe (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - Faculty of Law ( email )

Crookesmoor Building, Conduit Road
Sheffield S10 1FL
United Kingdom

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