Universal Basic Income: explored in the context of minorities

In an ECMI Working Paper published at the end of 2018, ECMI Junior Research Associate Sonja Wolf and ECMI Research Assistant Craig Willis assess how one of the current buzzwords in policy proposals could be relevant for national minorities. Given the much-discussed emancipatory potential of Universal Basic Income (UBI), the authors discuss this concept in the light of the increasingly popular approach of minority empowerment. The paper aims to explore the relationship between UBI theory and empowerment theory and to discuss the potential of UBI to be a tool in policies of minority empowerment.

Since the Swiss referendum on whether to implement a UBI back in 2014, the popularity around this policy proposal has grown tremendously. Although not a new idea by any means, the past few years have seen it emerge into mainstream debate and a variety of pilot studies become enacted. Regardless of one’s personal stance, such a radical policy of providing all citizens with a basic monthly amount to live on would undoubtedly affect the lives of the majority of the population; both net receivers and contributors. Thus, the authors believe that it is vital to unpack how it will affect all demographics of a population; this of course includes members of a national minority.

The Working Paper begins by outlining minority empowerment theory and then UBI, with a particular focus on individual freedom in the core areas of everyday life for individuals and society: employment, education, relationships and family life, community work, and government intrusion and social stigma. A consequent analytical section then unpacks each of these categories in the context of minorities, in order to explore how they could be affected.

The analysis section finds that UBI has the potential to alter all of these aspects, but “only if it is used to increase the existing standard of welfare and government services and not as an opportunity to reduce government spending by cutting the vital existing programmes”. After the introductory overview that this Working Paper aims to provide, the authors thus recommend further research to expand on the findings. This includes suggesting increased scrutiny on the specific areas of live outlined, as well as more empirical focus on how UBI could affect specific national minorities in Europe.

This Working Paper is available now online on the ECMI publications page

For a more in-depth discussion on empowerment theory in the context of national minorities, see Wolf, S. (2019) ‘Minority Empowerment’, in ‘Malloy, T.H. & Boutler, C. Minority Issues in Europe: New Ideas and Approaches, Vol 2. pp. 97-112.

The authors can be contacted directly by email: wolf@ecmi.de and willis@ecmi.de

Author: CW

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