Publications

De Wispelaere, J., & Morales, L. (2021). Emergency Basic Income during the Pandemic. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 30(2), 248-254.

Abstract:

 

This paper focuses on an emergency basic income (EBI) as a tool for avoiding financial insecurity during the time of pandemic. The authors argue that paying each resident a monthly cash amount for the duration of the crisis would serve to protect them from the economic fallout. They suggest three reasons why the EBI proposal is particularly well-suited to play an important role in a comprehensive public health response to COVID-19: it offers an immediate and agile response; it prioritizes the most vulnerable in the affected population; and it promotes a solidaristic response to the pandemic crisis. To go beyond the need to shut down and restart an EBI assistance scheme each time a pandemic hits, the authors propose considering turning the program into a permanent feature

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De Wispelaere, J, Halmetoja, A., & Pulkka, V-V. (2023). A Primer on the Finnish Basic Income Experiment: From Design and Implementation to Evaluation and Impact. The Palgrave International Handbook of Basic Income, 413-435.

Abstract:

 

In 2015, Juha Sipilä’s newly elected centre-right coalition government committed to launching a Basic Income experiment in its Government Programme. This propelled Finland onto the international scene and portrayed it as one of the leaders in Basic Income policy development. Yet the specifics of the Basic Income experiment—its design and implementation features—as well as the background to this decision, which is rooted in several decades of public and political debate surrounding the Basic Income proposal, remains little understood. Similarly, the experimental results and their impact on the Finnish social security debate remain unclear. In this primer we aim to shed light on the main features of the Finnish Basic Income experiment—its design, implementation, evaluation, and impact—and briefly reflect on the lessons to be learned for social security policy development in Finland and the wider Basic Income policy community.

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De Wispelaere, J., Morales, L., & Waltenberg, F. (2024). Basic income as a pandemic social protection instrument: Lessons from Maricá, Brazil. International Social Security Review, 77(1-2), 121-136.

Abstract:

 

This article explores the connection between two related but distinct models of basic income proposals in the context of a pandemic emergency. While COVID-19 appears to have increased interest in basic income, this often ended up taking the form of a temporary emergency basic income (EBI) instead of a permanent universal basic income (UBI). In this article we argue that the “dial up/dial down” model of basic income allows us to link EBI and UBI in a way that offers both a practical response to important implementation challenges in emergency policy making and a strategic argument in favour of UBI as a pandemic policy instrument. We illustrate our argument by contrasting the Renda Básica de Cidadania (RBC) in the municipality of Maricá, Brazil, with two comparable programmes in the same region.

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De Wispelaere, J., & Henderson, T. (2024). Introduction: Emergency basic income: Distraction or opportunity? International Social Security Review, 77(1-2), 3-16.

Abstract:

 

This themed issue, guest-edited by Jurgen De Wispelaere and Troy Henderson, is devoted to examining, first, whether the widespread use of immediate and unconditional cash transfers as a policy response to the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis has provided a boost to cash transfer programmes generally and to emergency basic income (EBI) policies more specifically. The set of articles then charts the reception of EBI-type policies as a pandemic response in specific country or regional contexts, and reflects on their relevance for the future development of universal social protection and, especially, universal basic income (UBI). While the contribution to be made by basic income to realizing resilient and agile social protection policy responses merits serious consideration, in particular in a context where existing social protection systems are patchy and fragmented, important questions remain as to how to evaluate the time-limited EBI crisis response in light of the more durable needs which a permanent UBI purports to address.

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Birnbaum, S., & De Wispelaere, J. (2021). Exit strategy or exit trap? Basic income and the ‘power to say no’ in the age of precarious employment. Socio-Economic Review, 19(3), 909-927.

Abstract:

 

An increasingly influential claim is that exit-based empowerment through an unconditional basic income offers the cornerstone of an effective strategy for supporting precarious workers in contemporary labour markets. However, it is plausible to assume that supporting the ‘power to say no’-to avoid or leave unattractive jobs-will empower precarious workers only to the extent that it offers the basis of a credible exit threat. In this article, we argue that a basic income-induced exit strategy amounts to a hollow threat. In light of a realistic understanding of how labour markets operate and how the opportunities of disadvantaged workers are presently structured, we show that the basic income-centred exit option can easily become an exit trap rather than an empowered fallback position.

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De Wispelaere, J., & Laitinen, A. (2020). Basic Income in the Recognition Order: Respect, Care, and Esteem. Paradigms of Justice: Redistribution, Recognition, and Beyond, 9-26.

Abstract:

 

There is a strong case to be made for granting each individual a basic income as a condition for securing dignity and respect. By contrast, an economy of esteem eschews universality and equality attached to each person and instead focuses on the differential ranking of persons, which appears to poorly fit with the idea of a universal basic income. This chapter argues that social esteem requires equal availability of sources of social esteem, that basic income plays a key role in securing these preconditions for social esteem, and that the positional and competitive economy of esteem must be ‘tamed’ by background measures such as basic income in order to avoid clashing with the need for securing dignity and respect.

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Halmetoja, A., De Wispelaere, J., & Perkiö, J. (2019). A Policy Comet in Moominland? Basic Income in the Finnish Welfare State. Social Policy and Society, 18(2), 319-330.

Abstract:

 

 

Finland is widely considered a frontrunner in the European basic income debate, primarily because of the decision by Juha Sipila ̈’s centre-right coalition government to design and conduct the first national basic income experiment (2017–2018). The Finnish basic income experiment builds on several decades of public and policy debate around the merits and problems of basic income, with the framing of basic income over time changing to fit the shift of the Nordic welfare state to embrace the activation paradigm. Underlying this discursive layer, however, we find several discrete, relatively small and unintended institutional developments that have arguably aligned the design of Finnish unemployment security closer to a partial basic income scheme. While the latter may suggest Finland has important stepping stones in place, important stumbling blocks remain and the jury is very much out on whether Finland would be the first European country to fully institute a basic income.

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De Wispelaere, J., & Haagh, L. (2019). Introduction: Basic Income in European Welfare States: Opportunities and Constraints. Social Policy and Society, 18(2), 237-242.

Abstract:

 

In the space of a mere five years, basic income has become something of a global policy phenomenon. The proposal to grant all permanent residents of a political territory a regular cash transfer on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement (Van Parijs and Vanderborght, 2017) is actively discussed at the highest levels of policy-making across the world, including by international institutions such as OECD, IMF or the World Bank. At the same time, several country surveys indicate the basic income idea is gaining considerable traction amongst the general public, with support for basic income in the latest wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) averaging slightly above 50 per cent (Lee, 2018). This suggests basic income has now firmly moved away from a mere ‘philosophical pipe dream’ to being considered as a serious alternative to conditional income assistance (Van Parijs, 2013; Haagh, 2017).

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De Wispelaere, J., Halmetoja, A., & Pulkka, V.V. (2018). The rise (and Fall) of the Basic Income Experiment in Finland. CESifo Forum, 19(3), 15-19.

Abstract:

 

In 2015 the newly elected Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä committed his centre-right coalition government to launching a basic income experiment. A two-year randomised controlled trial (RCT) started in January 2017. Finland was initially hailed as spearheading a new paradigm shift in European welfare policy, with advocates and decision-makers around the world watching closely to see how the Finnish experiment would develop. However, as more details emerged, and in particular as key limitations in the Finnish experimental design and implementation became apparent, initial enthusiasm amongst basic income advocates and interested parties rapidly turned into overt criticism. A proper understanding of the context in which the basic income experiment emerged reveals that the phenomenon to be explained is that the experiment happened in the first place. In this article, we suggest that far from having opened a window of opportunity, recent interest in basic income experimentation may amount to little more than a glitch in a remarkably stable policy landscape focused on labour market activation.

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De Wispelaere, J., & Stirton, L.J. (2017). When Basic Income Meets Professor Pangloss: Ignoring Public Administration and Its Perils. The |Political Quarterly, 88(2), 298-305.

Abstract

 

Basic income advocates propose a model that they believe will dramatically improve on current welfare programmes by alleviating poverty, reducing involuntary unemployment and social exclusion, redistributing care work, achieving a better work–life balance, and so on. Whether these expected social effects materialise in practice critically depends on how the model is implemented, but on this topic the basic income debate remains largely silent. Few advocates explicitly consider questions of implementation, and those that do are typically dismissive of the administrative challenges of implementing a basic income and critical (even overtly hostile) towards bureaucracy. In this contribution we briefly examine (and rebut) several reasons that have led basic income advocates to ignore administration. The main peril of such neglect, we argue, is that it misleads basic income advocates into a form of Panglossian optimism that risks causing basic income advocacy to become self-defeating.

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Langridge, N. (2024). Unconditional Basic Income and a Degrowth Transition: Adding Empirical Rigour to Radical Visions. Futures, 159, 1-14.

Abstract

 

Unconditional basic income (UBI) is one of the most discussed policy options for a degrowth transition. Advocates highlight UBI’s theoretical potential to reduce unnecessary material consumption, alleviate poverty and redistribute social wealth, achieve wellbeing within ecological limits, shift activity from wage-labour to meaningful work, and facilitate increased social participation. However, UBI’s radical potential remains under-examined within the empirical research, which focuses more on the policy’s potential to increase the supply of wage-labour and stimulate economic growth. This paper aims to push back against this limiting trend. It begins by outlining some of the characteristics of more sustainable and just societies, based on post-growth perspectives, and outlines the arguments put forward to support UBI’s compatibility with a degrowth transition. It then demonstrates that, despite support from UBI and many post-growth scholars, such arguments are not mainstreamed in the contemporary empirical UBI research. The paper argues that this increases the risk of UBI being captured by capitalist interests. To avoid this outcome, the paper proposes an alternative research agenda to help assess and advance UBI’s radical potential in line with post-growth visions.

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Langridge, N., Büchs, M., & Howard, N. (2022). An ecological basic income? Examining the ecological credentials of basic income through a review of selected pilot interventions. Basic Income Studies, 18(1), 47-87.

Abstract

 

While basic income (BI) has long been advocated for its social benefits, some scholars also propose it in response to the ecological crises. However, the empirical evidence to support this position is currently lacking and the concept of an ecological BI (EBI) is underdeveloped. Part one of this paper attempts to develop such a concept, arguing that an EBI should seek to reduce aggregate material throughput, improve human needs satisfaction, reduce inequalities, rebalance productive activity towards social activities in the autonomous sphere, and promote societal values of cooperation and sufficiency. Part two examines how BI interventions consider the principles of an EBI in their designs and discusses what their findings infer about BI’s ecological credentials. The results find that while ecological considerations are largely absent from BI intervention designs, their findings suggest that interventions aligned with the principles of an EBI could play a role in addressing the ecological crises.

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Howard, N., Gregory, G., Johnson, E.A., Goodman, C., Coates, J., Robson, I., Pickett, K., & Johnson, T.M. (2023). Designing basic income pilots for community development: what are the key community concerns? Evidence from citizen engagement in Northern England.

Abstract

 

Policymakers worldwide are realizing that traditional welfare systems need modernization. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with economic, ecological, and social crises intensifying, these systems are being exposed as inefficient, ineffective, and unjust. Policymakers have therefore begun exploring Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a potential alternative. This is leading to rising interest in basic income trials, with pilots proposed or in the pipeline in many countries, including Scotland and Wales. However, pilots are often designed without meaningful community participation, which raises significant ethical and practical concerns. Through a series of qualitative workshops in Jarrow, one of the most deprived areas in the UK and an archetypal target for “Leveling Up” policy, we explored and categorized local concerns, hopes, and suggestions for piloting basic income in the area. This article presents those findings and thereby builds the knowledge base around community perspectives on local basic income pilots.

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Vibhor, M., Howard, N., Lazarus, J., Bhan., T., Ardhapure, S., Devsharma, B. (2023). How to Set Up, Manage, and Study a UBI+ Experiment The Case of the ‘Work FREE’ Project in Hyderbad, India.

WorkFREE is a collaborative research project led by the University of Bath, UK in partnership with the Montfort Social Institute (MSI) and the India Network for Basic Income (INBI). It is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The project brings together civil society institutions, academics, and activists from India and the UK to pilot and study a unique intervention that we call ‘UBI+’ in four slum communities (‘bastis’) in Hyderabad, India. The pilot combines universal basic income (UBI) and needs-focused, participatory community organising to support people to increase their power to meet their needs. All residents in the said bastis, (approximately 1250 people across 350 households) receive monthly unconditional cash transfers for 18 months. In addition, the community organising support wraps around the cash over a period of 24 months. The project studies the impact on peoples’ lives – including their relationships, their work, and their wellbeing – and seeks to assess the prospects of UBI+ as a future social policy. WorkFREE is the first major UBI experiment to take place in urban India, and one of the first in the world to work with entire communities as opposed to selected individuals within those communities. Full project information can be found on the project’s website here. The rest of this ‘Process Document’ will outline the complex, challenging, nitty-gritty practicalities involved in project design, implementation, and management, with a view to supporting future would-be piloters embarking on similar journeys. We structure the report around three broad temporal phases.

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Howard, N. (2017). Basic income and the anti-slavery movement. Ethics & Politics, 19(1).

Unconditional basic is income not only feasible, but it also has more emancipatory
potential than any other single policy because it targets economic vulnerability, the heart of all labour exploitation.

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Howard, N. (2022). Towards ethical good practice in cash transfer trials and their evaluation. Open Research Europe, 2(12).

Abstract

 

Over the past 20 years, cash transfers have become increasingly widespread within international development and global social policy. Often, their roll out is preceded by a trial or pilot phase aiming to check feasibility and effectiveness. These pilots can involve thousands of people. However, there is limited discussion within the literature (and even less in practice) of how and whether cash transfer trials and the research that they involve can respect ethical standards. This paper represents an initial step towards filling that gap. It does so by reviewing the latest literature pertaining to the ethics of cash transfers and social experimentation. It concludes by advancing a series of proposals that could support cash transfer trials to take place with greater respect for research ethics norms and in the best interests of participants. The paper’s findings have relevance for policymakers and development practitioners working with cash transfers and also for the smaller cognate world of Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) piloting.

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Howard, N. (2022). Towards Ethical Good Practice in Cash Transfer Trials and their Evaluation: CLARISSA Working Paper 3, 1-32.

Abstract

 

Although cash transfers are now widely used within development and social policy, there is still limited discussion over how (and indeed whether) cash transfer trials and research on them can respect ethical standards. This Working Paper assesses the latest ethics-relevant literature and advances a series of proposals for attempting to ensure that cash transfer trials can take place ethically and with respect for the best interests of participants. The paper thus strives to lay foundations for the CLARISSA programme’s cash transfer trial in Bangladesh and the research that forms part of it.

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Roelen, K., Howard, N., Afroze, J., Akhtar, A., Ton, G., & Huq, L. (2023). CLARISSA Cash Plus: Innovative Social Protection in Bangladesh: CLARISSA Design Note 1, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies.

Abstract

 

Social protection, and cash transfers especially, have been found to have many positive impacts on families’ lives and are now widely recognised as a cornerstone of any prosperous, fair society. The CLARISSA Cash Plus intervention is an innovative social protection scheme for tackling social ills, including the worst forms of child labour (WFCL). Combining community mobilisation, case work and cash transfers, it aims to support people in a poor neighbourhood in Dhaka to build their individual, family, and group capacities to meet their needs. An increase in capacities is expected to lead to a corresponding decrease in deprivation and community-identified social issues that negatively affect wellbeing, including WFCL.

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Roelen, K., Howards, N., Paul, S., & Mathur, V. (2020). Children’s Engagement with Exploitative Work in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CLARISSA Working Paper 4.

Abstract

 

Despite decades of interventions aiming to reduce child labour, children’s engagement with exploitative work remains widespread, particularly in South Asia. Emerging evidence about cash transfer programmes point towards their potential for reducing children’s engagement with work, but knowledge is scarce in terms of their impact on exploitative work and in urban settings. One component of the CLARISSA programme is to trial an innovative ‘cash plus’ intervention and to learn about its potential for reducing children’s harmful and hazardous work in two slum areas in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This Working Paper presents findings from a small-scale qualitative study that was undertaken in late 2019, aiming to inform the design of the cash plus intervention. Findings point towards the potential for cash transfers to reduce the need for children to engage in exploitative work and highlight key considerations for design and delivery, including mode and frequency of delivery and engagement with local leaders and community representatives.

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Chrisp, J., & De Wispelaere, J. (2023). A basic income for every crisis? Building blocks of a political economy framework. Journal of Sociology, 59(4), 914-930. 

Abstract

 

In the wake of several recent crises, universal basic income has emerged as a serious policy solution. Not only is basic income pitched as a tool to mitigate the effects of a diverse set of emergencies, it has been argued that successive crises have importantly contributed to the surge in media and policy interest in basic income. In this article we critically examine this proposition. We first argue against the inherent functionalism of many accounts and instead propose a political economy framework that ties basic income directly to a series of mechanisms that may explain the opening up of basic income policy windows during recent crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic. It is equally important to carefully distinguish between different types of crises and we argue that two key competing types – cyclical and permanent crises – face a distinctive set of political economy constraints. We illustrate our approach by analysing the prospects of basic income in six distinct crisis events.

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Chrisp, J. (2023) The Macroeconomic Effects of a UBI: A Review of Existing Evidence and Approaches. Basic Income Studies, 18(2), 215-237.

Abstract

 

Research on UBI has blossomed in recent years, with a particular focus on conducting experiments with policies that share features with a UBI, microsimulation analysis and public opinion surveys. However, a common drawback with many of these approaches is the difficulty with examining ‘general equilibrium’ or ‘community’ effects. Macroeconomic modelling is one tool used to explore these more difficult questions of what would happen if a UBI was implemented at the national level. In this paper, a review of existing analysis of the macroeconomic effects of a UBI offers an insight into the assumptions, approaches and results of these studies and how these are interlinked. Recommendations are made to increase the diversity of models used and the mechanisms and contexts explored.

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Chrisp, J., Smyth, L., Stansfield, C., Pearce, N., France, R. & Taylor, C. (2022) Basic income experiments in OECD countries: A rapid evidence review. EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

Abstract

 

Since 2015, the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has inspired an increasing number of experiments in OECD countries. In this report, we provide a rapid evidence review of the characteristics, indicators and outcomes of these basic income experiments in order to inform policymakers about gaps in knowledge and to make suggestions for future experimental design. We found 38 experiments across Europe, North America and Asia that met inclusion criteria. Most experiments involve cash benefits targeted at a relatively small number of low-income households for a period of roughly two years dispersed across a relatively large area. We consider that this makes a sound case for the development of more heterogenous target groups, a longer time period and a greater examination of community effects. We also provide some suggestions for more policy- and political-oriented goals, which we argue are an oft-ignored elements of these experiments in policymaking and research.

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Chrisp, J., & De Wispelaere, J. (2022). Parading Utopia on the road to nowhere? An introduction to the special issue on the policy impact of the European basic income experiments. European Journal of Social Security, 24(3), 167-176.

Abstract

Basic income experiments have emerged across Europe in recent years, but until now analysis has focused on their design and the scientific interpretation of their results, rather than the subsequent policy impact of these projects. This special issue addresses this gap. The papers all focus on whether and how the European basic income experiments have made an observable impact on the basic income debate and social security reform more generally. The special issue includes country case studies of the three countries in Europe that have completed their experiments, Finland, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as a case study of Scotland, where a feasibility study did not result in a field experiment, and of Ireland, which is in the process of planning at least one experiment. Two papers then also examine the effect of these experiments on the debate at EU level and outside Europe, in Australia. The special issue provides a novel contribution that advances both the scholarly and policy debates surrounding basic income at a time when COVID-19 appears to have increased interest in the policy and equally seems to have propelled the idea of experimenting with basic income even further into the mainstream.

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Howard, N., Gregory, G., Johnson, E.A., Goodman, C., Coates, J., Robson, I., Pickett, K. & Johnson, M.T. (2023). Designing basic income pilots for community development: what are the key community concerns? Evidence from citizen engagement in Northern England. Local Development & Society, 1-17 [E-pub ahead of print].

Abstract

Policymakers worldwide are realising that traditional welfare systems need modernisation. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with economic, ecological, and social crises intensifying, these systems are being exposed as inefficient, ineffective, and unjust. Policymakers have therefore begun exploring Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a potential alternative. This is leading to rising interest in basic income trials, with pilots proposed or in the pipeline in many countries, including Scotland and Wales. However, pilots are often designed without meaningful community participation, which raises significant ethical and practical concerns. Through a series of qualitative workshops in Jarrow, one of the more deprived areas in the UK and an archetypal target for ‘Levelling Up’ policy, we explored and categorized local concerns, hopes, and suggestions for piloting basic income in the area. This article presents those findings and thereby builds the knowledge base around community perspectives on local basic income pilots.

Learn More
Langridge, N., Buchs, M. & Howard, N. (2022). Ecological Basic Income? Examining the Ecological Credentials of Basic Income Through a Review of Selected Pilot Interventions. Basic Income Studies, 18(1), 47-87.

Abstract

While basic income (BI) has long been advocated for its social benefits, some scholars also propose it in response to the ecological crises. However, the empirical evidence to support this position is currently lacking and the concept of an ecological BI (EBI) is underdeveloped. Part one of this paper attempts to develop such a concept, arguing that an EBI should seek to reduce aggregate material throughput, improve human needs satisfaction, reduce inequalities, rebalance productive activity towards social activities in the autonomous sphere, and promote societal values of cooperation and sufficiency. Part two examines how BI interventions consider the principles of an EBI in their designs and discusses what their findings infer about BI’s ecological credentials. The results find that while ecological considerations are largely absent from BI intervention designs, their findings suggest that interventions aligned with the principles of an EBI could play a role in addressing the ecological crises.

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The Bath UBI Beacon

Brings together researchers from across the University of Bath working on Universal Basic Income and its intersection with contemporary public policy challenges.

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