Universal Basic Income (UBI) guarantees a flat-rate income for every individual, regardless of employment status. It is seen by some as the future of welfare policy which will promote lifelong learning, support wellbeing, and help alleviate the impact of automation on the labour market.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic – which has exposed gaps in existing social safety nets and threatens the very foundations of the modern global economy – calls for UBI are more prevalent than ever. In combination with an apparent sea change in attitudes towards austerity, debt, and fiscal expansion, and the support of mainstream commentators for once-radical policies such as monetary financing and ‘sovereign money’ – the COVID-19 crisis has stimulated new ways of thinking about economic and social policy.
A number of countries as diverse as Hong Kong, Brazil, the US and Spain have proposed universal or quasi-universal handouts, to replace lost incomes and stimulate recovery. Everywhere, governments have torn up existing monetary rules and expanded welfare provisions and business supports drastically. But responses have been diverse, reflecting political and institutional variation.
It remains to be seen how robust the responses will be, and how their consequences will be settled, over the longer term. Are we witnessing a genuine shift, or will orthodoxy prevail? Is UBI now a distinct possibility, or an unfeasible pipedream? Can we afford it? How will societies and economies face up to the new realities of living and working as we emerge from the immediate health crisis into profound economic uncertainty?
Organised by the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath and the Bristol Festival of Ideas, leading thinkers, politicians and policymakers will come together to debate these issues and to explore new approaches to macro-economic policymaking, the prospects for UBI, and the political economy of social and economic change.
The programme for the conference will be available shortly.
Registration for the conference will be open soon.