In this article, Tracey Reynolds, a professor of social sciences at the University of Greenwich, surveys some arguments for and against basic income on gender equality grounds, and highlights the ways in which these arguments overlook the heterogeneous experiences of women. Specifically, she points to how black women have tended to relate to care work and reproductive labour in ways that differ from the dominant understanding of how (white, middle-class) women perform this kind of work.

For instance, one feminist argument against basic income is that it would encourage women to exit paid work, due to the persisting gender wage gap, and return to traditional gender roles. Yet Reynolds’ research, she claims, shows that black women’s mothering identity has come to combine “their dual status of economic worker and domestic carer.” In this way, perhaps, the gendered division of labour experienced as normal by many white, middle-class households would not be a particularly attractive way of structuring family life for black and other ethnic minority families.

Reynolds also highlights that basic income would not be a panacea for gender equality – pointing, for example, to the ways in which migrant women are exploited for cheap care work by the wealthier women of the global north.

Reynolds’ article is part of Compass’ blog series ‘Universal Basic Income: Security for the Future?’.

Tracey Reynolds, “Black women, Gender Equality and Universal Basic Income,” Compass, January 27, 2017.

Reviewed by Cameron McLeod

Photo: Greenwich University, CC BY 2.0 Paul Hudson

About Genevieve Shanahan

Genevieve Shanahan has written 20 articles.

Genevieve is a graduate of University College London, with an MPhil in philosophy. She currently works at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, assisting with research on young people and work in Europe, and otherwise reads and writes about basic income.