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UCL Institute for Global Prosperity issues report on Universal Basic Services

According to a recent report (May 2019) by UCL Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP), guaranteeing universal basic services (UBS), such as health care, education, child care, transportation and digital information, would be more beneficial to low income groups than universal basic income (UBI).

It is argued, in the referred report authored by Anna Coote, Pritika Kasliwal and Andrew Percy, that “extending public services is likely to be more effective in addressing poverty, inequality and wellbeing than unconditional cash payments to individuals”. That assertion is linked to a yet to be published article by Coote and Yazici called “Universal Basic Income, A literature review”, while the present report does not “consider the case for UBI in any depth”. The discussion defending UBS, in the report, seems then to be unilateral. However, cost considerations between the two systems, for the United Kingdom reality, have been done in a previous report (from 2017). From these calculations, the authors have reached the conclusion (stated after the 2019 report’s release) that UBS would cost around 10% less than UBI to implement in the country.

Andrew Percy, co-author of the report (supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) and Citizen Sponsor at IGP, has said that “universal access to basic public services must be the foundation of 21st century welfare that delivers real social security, allows people to make meaningful choices about their work, and can be delivered in an affordable and practical way”, which doesn’t seem to pitch UBS against UBI. Others, like Will Stronge (Autonomy think tank) and Mathew Lawrence (Common Wealth think tank), explicitly consider UBI and UBS to be complementary in an evolving model for society.

Anna Coote. Picture credit to: Green European Journal

Anna Coote. Picture credit to: Green European Journal

Anna Coote and co-author Edanur Yazici have also recently (April 2019) published another report (signing for the New Economic Foundation), entiled “Universal Basic Income: A Union Perspective”, which clearly rejects UBI in favour of a UBS. That study has been published by the global trade union federation Public Services International (PSI), financially supported by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung foundation. This particular report was analysed by UBI activist Scott Santens, who has written that it is “a prime example of a disinformation campaign designed to manipulate public opinion against the idea of universal basic income”, and a “shameless propaganda” move.

The publication of the 2019 report on universal basic services, by the IPG, has also spurred a reaction in Guy Standing, a lifelong researcher, economist, author and activist for UBI. According to him, in an article published in Open Democracy, “there is no contradiction between having some public quasi-universal basic services and a basic income”. He adds, concluding, that these systems “address different needs and stem from different rationales. But having cash enhances freedom of choice, is potentially more empowering and can be more transformative. I plead with those advocating ‘Universal Basic Services’ to stop juxtaposing the idea of more and better public services with giving people basic income security.”

More information at:

Laurie MacFariane, “Universal services more effective than a Universal Basic Income, argues new report”, OpenDemocracy, May 16th 2019

Scott Santens, “‘Universal Basic Income Doesn’t Work’ Says New Prime Example of Fake News”, Medium, May 31st 2019

Guy Standing, “Why ‘Universal Basic Services’ is no alternative to Basic Income”, Open Democracy, June 6th 2019

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 331 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.

2 comments

  • J. Salgado

    To me it should be OK, the more UBS provided, the less UBI required.

    In fact, education and health are already universal in some countries (specifically in UK, where I understand the proponents are based), so it would no be differential to most UBI proposals that plan to keep those services universal. But the consecquence is right: UBI should be higher in absence of Universal education and health services.

    I am a little confused on how exactly housing would be universal/unconditional. Would a home be provided to all who request it or only those in need (conditional-not universal)?

    In the “plus” side, it might be more appealing to those of us that sometimes think that many people are not trustworthy or responsible when making purchase decisions with their income. Amazon would be more in the UBI side, I think.

    Finally, I would certainly include energy, heat, water and telecom services in UBS since these are really basic for a decent life. Maybe this would revert the claim of UBS being cheaper than UBI.

    It might be a distraction strategy, but I guess its not a very good one: the more people talk about these proposals UBI, UBS, the better. I should wellcome the discussion.

  • Bernard Kirkham

    The fundamental issue is redistribution of wealth, however delivered. It is a diversion, however interesting for academic speculators, to present UBI and UBS, as a binary choice. The devil will be in the detail. To calculate with any precision the effect of a service is difficult. Universal compulsory education is ubiquitous in those states able to afford it, but because of the effect of the division of wealth and all the advantages and disadvantages of level of wealth, it in practice means the state is mostly reinforcing inequality.

    There is no way that any policy to redress inequality could be found to wave a magic wand and find the golden route which would yield quick results. But UBI gives the greater discretion to the less wealthy, or poor as they used to be known as.

    No redistribution is a quick fix, culture in its widest sense is a slow mover. I fear that behind the proponents of UBS lurks the idea that the poor cannot be trusted, that if you give the poor a bathroom, they will use it to store the coal.

    In the French and American 18th century demand for equality had nothing to do with redistribution of wealth, it was to away with feudal legal privileges.

    Today equality must mean economic equality. Not absolute equality, there must still be reward for effort. But perhaps all will agree that we have far to go before that might become the problem.

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