University of Bath

Welfare States in Transition – The Political Economy of Universal Basic Income (PhD project)

A PhD research project exploring how basic income would fit into the welfare state, as well as who supports it and why.

About this research

Universal basic income is a policy that would provide a regular income to all individuals within a political community, regardless of working status or income from other sources. In an era of austerity and activation, the emergence of basic income as a serious policy proposal discussed around the world is perhaps surprising. Yet in the last couple of years, Switzerland has held a national referendum on the introduction of a basic income, Finland has launched a two-year experiment testing the effects of a basic income on unemployed individuals and governments in Canada, the Netherlands and France have all announced plans to run similar experiments.

The research seeks to answer two broad questions. Firstly, who supports basic income and why? This will consider both constituencies for basic income and political actors. Secondly, how does basic income fit into the wider political economy of the welfare state? This is an attempt to contextualise demands for basic income within particular countries and their institutions. A central facet of the approach is to understand basic income as a family of policies that can stress different features – whether unconditionality, universalism, minimum income guarantees, redistribution etc. – to different extents. The research will use cross-national attitudinal data and polling to understand how economic or demographic factors may explain support for basic income or particular features of basic income. This will seek to build upon the extensive literature on welfare state preferences and attitudes that has developed in recent years. To understand why political actors and specifically parties are considering or advocating basic income, the research will combine manifesto and policy document analysis with case studies in particular countries using elite interviews to deepen our understand of the motivations and movements behind basic income advocacy.

Selected key outputs