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University of Bath

Varieties of basic income: the political economy of universalism in European welfare states

A systematic examination of the political prospects for instituting an unconditional basic income scheme in diverse welfare states across Europe.

While in recent years basic income has evolved from a marginal policy idea to a serious item on the policy agenda, there is surprisingly little engagement with questions of how to integrate universal and unconditional basic income schemes into the existing institutional configuration of the developed welfare state. This project adopts a political economy approach to analyse the “varieties of basic income”: distinctive basic income models that can be mapped onto the specific features of types of welfare states. The importance of this project is to refocus scholarly attention from philosophical and economic debates about the desirability and feasibility of basic income, to its political feasibility — with specific focus on examining the prospects for building a robust basic income constituency, a stable enacting coalition of political actors, and the goodness-of-fit of specific basic income proposals within the institutional configuration of mature welfare states.

Project team

This research project consisted of several separate projects conducted in collaboration with scholars from IPR as well as scholars in universities in UK and EU:

  • Dr Jurgen De Wispelaere, Institute for Policy Research (IPR) Policy Fellow
  • Dr Luke Martinelli, IPR
  • Joe Chrisp, IPR
  • Dr Evelyn Forget, University of Manitoba
  • Professor Lindsay Stirton, Sussex Law School
  • Johanna Perkio, University of Tampere
  • Dr Simon Birnbaum, Institute of Future Studies/Uppsala University
  • Dr Louise Haagh, University of York


Dr Jurgen De Wispelaere's research was funded through a Political Economy Research Fellowship from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF).

In addition he received funding support from the Institute for Policy Research through its Policy Fellowship Programme and from the Economic Security Project to write a book on basic income experiments with Dr Evelyn Forget.



  • When Basic Income Meets Professor Pangloss: Ignoring Public Administration and Its Perils (2017), Jurgen De Wispelaere and Lindsay Stirton, The Political Quarterly 88(2), 298-305

  • Basic Income — Have Austerity’s Chickens come Home to Roost? (2017) Jurgen De Wispelaere, ISRF Bulletin 13, Independent Social Research Foundation

Blog posts:

Events organised/coordinated:


  • “Down the rabbit hole? Implementation challenges for unconditional basic income schemes (and how to avoid them)” keynote lecture at upcoming BIEN Congress, Lisbon, 25-27 September 2017

  • “A New Universalism? Varieties of Basic Income and Welfare State Reform” presentation for ESPANet annual conference, University of Lisbon, 14-16 September (with Luke Martinelli)

  • “The Exit Trap: Is Basic Income an Acceptable Way Out for Republicans?”, presentation for workshop on The Future of Republicanism, York University, 26-27 June 2017

  • “Varieties of Basic Income: A Research Programme” presentation at annual conference Today’s Future Challenges & Opportunities Across the Social Sciences, Independent Social Research Foundation, Amsterdam, 21-22 June 2017

  • “What We Can (Already?) Learn from the Finnish Basic Income Experiment”, presentation for IBEI workshop on Technology, Employment and Basic Income, University of Barcelona, 25 May 2017

  • “Squaring the Circle of Welfare Reform: Unconditional Basic Income as a Social Investment Strategy?”, presentation for Society, Policy and Practice seminar, Swansea University, 17 May 2017 (with Luke Martinelli)

  • “Squaring the Circle of Welfare Reform: Unconditional Basic Income as a Social Investment Strategy?”, presentation prepared for CIDEEFF workshop on Unconditional Basic Income, Lisbon School of Law, 15 May 2017

  • “A Health Dividend? The role and impact of unconditional cash transfers on health outcomes”, invited presentation at Global Governance and Responsibility — EADI (the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes) Collaboration Seminar, Tampere, 10 April 2017

  • “What (If Anything) Can we Learn from Piloting Basic Income Experiments?” public lecture at the Centre for Sustainable Business, Stockholm School of Economics, Riga (Latvia), 7 April 2017

  • “Basic Income and the Precariat: From Exit Option to Exit Trap?”, presentation for Precariousness workshop, Newcastle University. 7-8 January 2017

  • “Exit, Voice and Solidarity: What Should We Expect from a Basic Income Guarantee in the Workplace?” presentation for Labour Market Injustice workshop, Newcastle University, 14-15 December 2016

  • “Varieties of Basic Income”, presentation for workshop on Basic Income and the European Welfare State, Institute for Policy Research, 13 December 2016 (with Luke Martinelli)

  • “Basic Income In our Time: Political Prospects, Political Challenges”, public lecture at Richmond University, London, 1 November 2016

  • “Comparing Basic Income Experiments: Lessons and Challenges”, presentation at expert workshop Experimenting with Basic Income: Finland and Netherlands, Kela — Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Helsinki, 8 November 2016

  • Invited panelist, 30th Anniversary of BIEN (Basic Income Earth Network), UCL Louvain-la-Neuve, 1 October 2016

  • “Basic Income and the Exit Fallacy (Or Keeping It Real In Theory and Practice)”, seminar presentation at Centre for Research in Ethics (CRE), University of Montreal, 21 September 2016

  • Invited Participant, special session on the future of basic income in Quebec, Forum des Idées pour le Québec, Montréal, 23-25 September 2016