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UK: A debate about the feasibility of Citizen’s Basic Income

Picture credit to: European Parliament


On the 23rd November, Social Europe published an article by Bo Rothstein entitled ‘UBI: A bad idea for the welfare state‘:

First, such a reform would be unsustainably expensive and would thereby jeopardize the state’s ability to maintain quality in public services such as healthcare, education and care of the elderly. … Another problem … concerns overall political legitimacy. … A third problem concerns the need for work. … The basic error with the idea of ​​unconditional basic income is its unconditionality. …

On the 11th December a response appeared: ‘Universal Basic Income: Definitions and details’:

… The main problem with the UBI that Rothstein discusses in his article is not its unconditionality: it is the detail and the flawed definition. … a UBI is an unconditional income paid to every individual. The definition implies neither a particular amount, nor that means-tested benefits would be abolished, and it does not imply that the UBI would free people from paid employment. So instead of a UBI scheme that pays £800 per month to every individual, and that abolishes means-tested benefits, let us instead pay £264 per month to every individual (with different amounts for children, young adults, and elderly people), and let us leave means-tested benefits in place and recalculate them on the basis that household members now receive UBIs. According to research published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, the effects of such a UBI scheme would be interestingly different from the effects of Rothstein’s. …

More information at:

Bo Rothstein, “A bad idea for the welfare state“, Social Europe, 23rd November 2017

Malcolm Torry, “Universal Basic Income: definitions and details“, 11th December 2017

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 305 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • David Jones

    Why can’t we all stop pussyfooting around the issue of BI and just implement a full program and, if it doesn’t work, so it doesn’t work. We find another solution. But until we try on this scale, we’ll never know. Enough of all this anal analysis while the world rots in the hands of a few obscenely rich people.

  • dean axford

    Rather than re-inventing the wheel , it would be easier to extend the benefit Income Support to anyone whose capital and income levels are low enough, whilst abolishing the current regime of punishing people (DWP, Job Centres) and also expand the state Social Fund (cut back massively over the last 15 yrs) to anyone who needs to borrow from the State .
    In Summary a guaranteed minimum income (without conditions) and a guaranteed source of lending if really desperate provided you pay it back of course!

  • Peter Lynch

    One probable effect of a UBI is that it would suppress wages. Without a UBI, employers have to offer a liveable wage rate to attract workers. With UBI, the wage they offer needs to only only be sufficient to top up the UBI to what the wage would have been in its absence. This is not a bad thing as it provides an incentive for employers to employ more people. If a UBI is ever adopted, governments should accept this and adjust the minimum wage downwards to accept the new reality. This benefit to employers should be offset by an increase in company tax or a turnover tax. This may be seen as being unduly onerous on businesses that require few workers but I am sure there are ways this problem can be addressed.

    An important feature of a UBI should be to reduce inequality by working on both ends of the income scale. In this respect it is desirable that the residual cost of a UBI should be paid by taxing the incomes and/or wealth of the top few percent the population.

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