The Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean has recently produced a report in which it recommends a universal and unconditional basic income as one measure to promote the equality and autonomy of women.

The Thirteenth Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, organized by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), was held in Montevideo, Uruguay from October 25-28. It brought together politicians and policy researchers with expertise in the rights and welfare of women in the region.

In the 150-page report titled “Equality and women’s autonomy in the sustainable development agenda”, conference participants discuss their policy recommendations to ensure the equality, autonomy, and empowerment of women.

While the report covered a wide range of policy areas, its section on women’s economic equality and independence is particularly noteworthy for Basic Income News–since, in addition to other reforms, it clearly recommends a universal and unconditional basic income (cf. pp. 50-51).

The report notes that women often “face the most vulnerable and precarious [economic] situations” and thus stand to benefit considerably from a basic income (p. 50).

Summarizing the impact of basic income, the authors write:

While the basic income would not resolve all the problems caused by inequality and the sexual division of labour (as this would require broader structural reform covering different variables), it would have some positive effects, including: (i) increasing women’s freedom by giving them economic independence; (ii) reducing the feminization of poor households; (iii) distributing domestic and care work better, as a basic income would increase women’s bargaining power. In addition, women would gain not only in economic terms but also in terms of rights and autonomy (Raventós and Wark, 2016). The introduction of a universal basic income for women would have at least three further outcomes: (i) a more balanced distribution of resources; (ii) recognition of gender equality by guaranteeing a basic income for both sexes; (iii) enhancing women’s individuality and hence the possibility of furthering women’s representation.

A minimum wage policy, coupled with a basic income policy, would create synergy, helping to increase women’s economic autonomy and to improve distributive equality in countries of the region; in turn, this would contribute to sustainable development (p. 51).

In addition to basic income and a minimum wage, the report calls for a reduction in work hours, which would permit more women to balance employment with domestic work, while also allowing men to devote greater time to childrearing, housework, and so forth.

Elsewhere in the report, while summarizing a range of programs to combat poverty, the authors mention (in passing) “the possibility of recognizing the right to a guaranteed basic income as a new human right” (p. 41).

This is not the first time in recent months that ECLAC has recommended a basic income. In its position document released in May, ECLAC encouraged its member states to investigate the possibility of adopting a basic income guarantee (here presented chiefly as a response to technologically-driven unemployment and instability). The commission’s recommendations have been instrumental in the movement in Mexico City to secure a basic income as a constitutionally-recognized right.

In past years, ECLAC has also been a participant at BIEN’s biennial Congress (2014) and released a report specifically on basic income (2010).

Reviewed by Robert Gordon.

Photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 World Bank Photo Collection.


About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.