Case study

The role of economic security in welfare reform around the globe

As modern economies transform and welfare states feel the strain, rights-based forms of economic security are being reassessed and igniting a heated global debate.

Poster for Universal Basic Income plastered to a tree (Flickr:

The issue

Once seen as a radically Utopian fantasy, proposals for a universal basic income (UBI) have become mainstream. However, many fundamental questions about basic income and its potential remain unanswered. How should the case for basic income be grounded? How does basic income relate to the wider problems of providing economic and social security in a changing world economy? How does basic income relate to political development and the democratisation of states? These are all questions which urgently require rigorous analysis.

Often presented as a discrete policy, basic income cannot stand alone. It is inevitably connected with wider choices about the design of public policy, institutions and governance. Against the libertarian understanding of basic income as an isolated “least bad” option, this project presents a distinctive democratic humanist case for basic income. It examines the ways in which basic income relates to, and indeed entails, other policies designed to sustain human and democratic development and public governance capacity.

The research

This project is empirically based on in-depth research into public sector reforms to economic security on three continents (East Asia, Latin America and Europe) and on original survey data assessing the impact of economic security in human behaviour and wellbeing.

This analysis led to the articulation of a distinct case for basic income reform. Rather than a substitute for, or an extension of, capitalism, basic income is best conceived as a crucial element in a much broader task of constructing a democratic society that promotes human development and economic justice.

Transitions to basic income are a pragmatic outcome of public sector adaptation to contemporary governance challenges, whose architecture and consequences we are able to shape.

A practical focus of this research is policy coherence, driven by the interdisciplinary nature of expertise in human development statistics, comparative institutional analysis of welfare state development and human development-oriented policy design.

The outcome

Building on its comprehensive approach to economic security, this project works with a range of citizens’ groups and international organisations, exploring how to confront development challenges and build public capacity in the areas such as economic security, health equality, public employment policy, and public finance reforms.

Featured researcher

Louise Haagh

Dr Haagh researches and writes about problems relating to the democratisation of human development, economic justice, modalities of institutional change, and social transformation. Her most recent book is The Case for Universal Basic Income.

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