COVID-19 and global perspectives on universal basic income

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A University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) online event

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As a scheme which guarantees a flat-rate income for every individual, regardless of employment status, universal basic income (UBI) is seen by some as the future of welfare policy – to 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 helicopter money and mutualised debt – so-called ‘coronabonds’ – the prevailing economic consensus seems to be giving way to a new paradigm.

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 redistributive consequences will be settled, over the longer term. Are we witnessing a genuine paradigm shift, or will orthodoxy prevail? Is UBI now a distinct possibility, or an unfeasible pipedream? 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?

In this webinar, chaired by Professor Nick Pearce, join Dr Luke Martinelli, Dr Aida Garcia-Lazaro, and Rachel Statham who will discuss the global economic consequences of COVID-19, and the arguments for and against UBI.

Speaker biographies

Dr Aida Garcia-Lazaro is a Research Associate in the IPR at the University of Bath.

Dr Luke Martinelli is a Research Associate in the IPR, University of Bath, and author of ‘Basic income, automation and labour market change’.

Professor Nick Pearce is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the IPR at the University of Bath.

Rachel Statham is a Senior Research Fellow at IPPR Scotland.

This event is part of an IPR online event series taking place throughout summer. Find out more.

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