Should feminists support basic income?

by Ingrid Robeyns on July 10, 2007

A little while ago, when “Harry discussed the latest addition to the Real Utopias Project on basic income and stakeholding”:, some commentators raised the issue of the gender effects. I promised at that time that I would write a post about it. Well, finallly the time has come — thanks to a workshop on this topic that the “Heinrich Boell Foundation”: organised last Thursday in Berlin. They are the think-thank of the Green German Party, which is currently seriously debating whether they should advocate a basic income as (part of) a welfare state reform strategy. The workshop addressed the question whether a basic income would have different implications for women and men, and whether, all things considered, it would be a policy reform that feminists may want to support.
Writing “my paper for that workshop”:, I noted that while I was already somewhat critical about the desirability of a basic income from a feminist perspective some years ago, my worries have only grown. There’s only one group of women for whom basic income will clearly be a short-term advantage – women who would not (want to) be on the labour market, with or without a basic income. But for other groups of women the total income and labour supply effects are unclear and hard to predict. Our best guesses are that most women would want to be employed for fewer hours – but that requires the availability of part-time jobs. Similar non-earned income policies in Europe, such as paid parental leave, time credits, or paid care leaves, are predominantly used by women, not by men. So based on these closest resembling existing policies, we would predict a strenghtening of the traditional gender divison of labour, with all the disadvantages and risks that this brings to the person doing the unpaid work. A basic income may soften the financial part of these disadvantages and risks, but since feasibility and sustainability constraints limit the level of the highest possible sustainable basic income, a basic income cannot cover all these risks. Moreover, a basic income does nothing to change the fact that many (most?) women want to share care and unpaid work, independent of the financial consequences.

Feminists come in many colours, but one major group argues for a revaluating and redistribution of care and unpaid work. A basic income will not contribute to the redistribution, if anything rather the opposite. But I’ve also increasingly come to question whether it will contribute to any serious revaluation of care and unpaid work. Since a basic income is given to all citizens, including those who do not make any positive contribution to society, how can it signal a positive revaluation for care work? If it is given to a 18-year old school drop out watching videos all day on the same terms as to a full time carer, how can it signal that society appreciates the work that this carer does? Or take the case of a hardworking professional whose relative becomes seriously ill, and he (temporarily) quits his job to become a full-time carer. His income will drop from the level of the basic income plus the net income from employment to the basic income level; he is in no way being compensated for the fact that he becomes a carer for this ill relative. So I am rather sceptical about the often taken-for-granted argument in the basic income literature that a basic income will contribute to a revaluation of carework.

But there are more feminist worries. One is the question about priorities: as Barbara Bergmann has argued in her Chapter for Erik Olin Wright’s book, a sizeable basic income will take such a large share of GDP that there will be no public funds left for important goods such as public schools, physical and mental health care, child and elderly care arrangements, and so forth. There are many papers written both by academics and politicians arguing that we should have a basic income and a range of other public provisionings, but hardly ever does one see the question raised whether all this can be paid for by the public budget. I was told in Berlin that the proposal that the Greens are debating (a basic income at the “socio-cultural existence minimum”), would amount to 50% of GDP. Since Germany has very limited facilities for child care, and (to the best of my knowledge) free public education only starts at the age of 6 (compared to, for example, 4 in the Netherlands or 2,5 in Belgium), I think German feminists would do well to put their priorities in expanding these facilities.

The basic income proposal is often praised since it would remove the unemployment trap, because it makes the differential between working and not-working significantly positive (in contrast to current systems of unemployment benefits where the net-difference of working may be small and thus the financial incentives of moving from unemployment to a job would be weak). But there is a risk that the solving of the unemployment trap goes hand in hand with the creation of another trap. Basic income is often said to respect the choices of parents (read: mothers) to choose whether to use public child care facilities or care for their children themselves. But if a basic income is introduced together with a reform of the tax rates from progressive taxation on labour to a flat tax rate, and with the abolition of child care subsidies, then a basic income is likely to put mothers into a child care trap. The monthly cost of a full-time child care place in the Netherlands is over 1.000 Euro; so the basic income for children will not cover that cost. This is of course as much a problem for current welfare states – High quality child care is expensive and therefore has to be subsidised if we want there to be an financial incentive for mothers to take a job, or put differently, to offer them a genuine opportunity to hold a job. But since the basic income proposal is often defended in terms of enabling real choice, this seems to me a crucial issue which basic income advocates should pay attention to (and as far as I could tell, there is nothing about this in the basic income literature).

So should feminists support basic income? Even if they think basic income is a good idea on other grounds (as a anti-poverty strategy, for example), the effects on gender relations and women’s position in society would to a large extent depend on the details of the proposal, such as the level of the basic income for adults and children, the quality and net cost of child and elderly care facilities, the reform of the tax sytem, and so forth. As a utopia basic income may sound good to women, but as is often the case, the devil is in the details.

{ 1 trackback }

Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Link Farm & Open Thread #50
07.13.07 at 5:44 pm



sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 10:25 am

UK spending on benefits is ~£180bn. Providing a £100pw basic income in the UK would cost ~£260bn, but replace the ~£180bn. UK government spending is ~£500bn. I don’t see how people can claim that, in the UK at least, a basic income is unaffordable.


Katherine 07.10.07 at 10:35 am

My impression is that the “citizen’s basic income” is starting to gain some momentum in the UK as well, although that momentum seems to be so far limited to the right(ish) wing “blogosphere”. The major support for it seems to come from either those who abhor the high marginal tax rate for people coming off benefits and/or those who want to see public expenditure slashed and see the CBI as the answer, since with it, everyone will be able to afford everything currently provided by government (they think/wish).

I haven’t thus far seen any analysis of its effect on women – mostly because those discussing it have been male bloggers – so thank you for this.


sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 10:48 am

Also, surely one should be attempting to provide a situation in which either parent can stay home and look after the kids. In the UK, male and female salaries up to the late twenties-early thirties are comparable to within a percent or so – it’s only after child-bearing age that women’s salaries start to drop. Surely the solution to this is to fight for equal parental leave after childbirth?


Tim Worstall 07.10.07 at 11:11 am

Perhaps the biggest booster of the CBI in the UK blogosphere is Chris Dillow (Stumbling and Mumbling)and he’s coming at it from a left libertarian perspective. From the right (ish) side I support it for both of the reasons katherine mentions. However, I doubt that it will “slash” public spending, rather, remove the distortions to incentives that the current approach causes.


Matt 07.10.07 at 11:18 am

Have you read Anne Alsott’s paper “Good for women” in the Boston Review of Books volume about Van Parijs’s version of basic income, _What’s wrong with a free lunch?_ I can’t say that she answers all of these concerns convincingly (it’s a short piece, among other things) but she addresses many of them. It’s a nice little volume, if you’ve not seen it.

I think these are real concerns but I have two questions (maybe you address them more fully in the paper- I’m just going from the post, now.) First, isn’t there reason to believe that, if a basic income was offered to everyone (not, that is, to families as such) that men would also have more flexibility to work less during the time when their children are young? And if there’s even some pressure in this direction, might that not be one way to change social norms, one that’s more likely to be compatible with liberalism and to stick? Secondly, if there is a basic income offered to everyone, might not child care become less expensive since it (like many other things) might not need to be paid as well as it is now to allow people to live decent lives? I guess that leads to a worry about ‘devaluing care’, as you mention above, but I don’t see why we can or should expect each policy to address all of our goals. I’m not convinced that GBI is the right thing to support and these are important worries. I’ll have to read your paper some time (soon, I hope) but I wonder if they are not partly tangental to the more basic worries about the proposal or could be dealt with.


soullite 07.10.07 at 11:38 am

Maybe feminists should start thinking beyond what immediately benefits them. Basic income would take some money from those who would otherwise horde it and pass it on to their children, who would do the same. For too many generations too much wealth has been locked up on the bank accounts of those with “old” money.

You all talk about “moral hazards” (amazing how the only thing economists will call immoral involves giving money to those without it) and such, even if you don’t use the term. Has it occurred to you that there are more pressing concerns than the difference between a 3.0% increase in GDP and a 3.2% increase in GDP? Clearly, you’re all feminists and feminists could give a fuck about class issues. They mostly seem concerned with making sure rich white women get the same privileges as rich white men. Thats your prerogative, but some of us will remember that the next time you decide that Abortion or equal pay should AUTOMATICALLY become the prime concern of every other faction in the party. You don’t care about our issues, why should we care about yours? That’s one hell of a way to put together a political coalition.


reuben 07.10.07 at 12:01 pm

Crikey, who let Chris Benoit into the building?


reuben 07.10.07 at 12:08 pm

if there is a basic income offered to everyone, might not child care become less expensive since it (like many other things) might not need to be paid as well as it is now to allow people to live decent lives?

I don’t think this would work, primarily because child care is already one of the most poorly paid professions in liberal democracies such as the US and UK. In the latter, there’s good research to show that staff tend leave childcare to take up more highly paid positions – as supermarket checkout clerks and call centre drones! Like all labour intensive positions, it suffers greatly from Baumol’s disease, and is so poorly paid that, at least in the UK, not only can childcare centres not afford the well qualified staff that good care depends on, they can’t even afford unqualified staff. (And all the research shows that staff quality is directly related to children’s outcomes.)

I can point you to posts and/or sources, if you’re interested.



Katherine 07.10.07 at 12:10 pm

Well, yes, Chris Dillow supports it. But I think it’s a wee bit of a stretch to say he has been its biggest boost. Overall, I’d say right(ish) bloggers more than left(ish) bloggers in the UK have been supportive of the idea.


Katherine 07.10.07 at 12:12 pm

And really soullite, if you think “feminists could give a fuck about class issues”, you should have a good conversation with my Marxist, feminist, lesbian mother-in-law.


Matt 07.10.07 at 12:40 pm

_”In the latter, there’s good research to show that staff tend leave childcare to take up more highly paid positions – as supermarket checkout clerks and call centre drones!_”

I’m sure this is so now. But, my question was whether people might not work in childcare _w/o_ it having to be much more highly paid if they _also_ had a UBI. As I’ve understood Van Parijs’s arguments this is supposed to be one of the pluses of UBI- work that is now poorly paid but otherwise more rewarding than somewhat better paid but dreary work would become more attractive without (directly) having to become better paid. Maybe that won’t work, but I don’t see why the situation of child-care workers _now_ tells us much about what the situation would be like if we had a fairly generous UBI (assuming it could be made to work- not something I’m completely sure of.)


Yan 07.10.07 at 12:43 pm

Obviously, soullite’s suggestion that all feminists are devoted solely to the welfare of economically comfortable white women is false, and it was probably an intentional exaggeration for effect.

But the underlying issue soullite raises is a good one. As the original post puts it: “Even if they think basic income is a good idea on other grounds (as a anti-poverty strategy, for example), the effects on gender relations and women’s position in society…”

This seems to strongly suggests that feminists ought to prioritize the interests of women, and the issue of women’s position in society (i.e., middle-to-upper class women), over the issues of class inequality and poverty. And that’s a troubling suggestion.


Alex 07.10.07 at 12:52 pm

If it is given to a 18-year old school drop out watching videos all day on the same terms as to a full time carer, how can it signal that society appreciates the work that this carer does?

Surely the main benefit to the carer would be the money.


jayann 07.10.07 at 1:13 pm

This seems to strongly suggests that feminists ought to prioritize the interests of women, and the issue of women’s position in society (i.e., middle-to-upper class women), over the issues of class inequality and poverty.

well of course feminists should prioritise the interests of women (etc.). That’s why we’re called feminists… That doesn’t though mean prioritising the interests of middle/upper middle/upper class women, albeit I’d say a) some liberal femnists do that* and b) it may be necessary to support tactics that have that effect (e.g. affirmative action) as a faute de mieux. (*It’s possible to argue Susan Muller Okin, clearly a liberal feminist, did not.)

And of course socialists should prioritise the issues of class inequality and poverty (etc.); that’s why we’re called socialists…

Is there a problem here? Yes. Are there dilemmas here? Yes. Does that mean feminists should give up the still unequal battle in the face of comments like yours? No. And one reason why not is this: women make up rather a large part of the poor, the oppressed, the wretched of the earth, and in every ‘theory’ except feminism’s, that part comes second to men.


reuben 07.10.07 at 1:14 pm


It’s possible you’re correct, but my feeling is that due to the immense labour costs associated with childcare, and the ever more pressure put on it by Baumol’s, childcare agencies would push even further to the bottom (sans regulation), paying even worse than they are now. ‘Coz it’s not like childcare centres are raking in the bucks even paying the terrible wages they currently do. It’s what’s been called a “peculiar market”, wherein the outcome is dependent on quality, but quality staff are unaffordable for most centres. And it’s not just quality staff who are unaffordable: crap staff are, too. Barring extensive government subsidy (which universal benefit would obviously militate against) or a wealthy clientelle that can pay the real costs of high quality care, my feeling is that childcare centres would cut their wages even further in order to stay afloat. Ie in this and other industries where labour makes up the majority of costs, incomes would be cut to make up for the universal benefit. I don’t have any evidence for that, though. If on the other hand there was legislation banning them from doing this, or other incentives, than yes, your scenario would definitely come into play – some who currently want to be childcare professionals but can’t afford to would be able to stay in the profession.


sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 1:44 pm

Well, I think the childcare argument is a red herring. Childcare is about replacing a parent’s duties with paid labour. If you are going to have kids, then the responsible thing is for one of the parents to stay home for a while. Yes, this is going to dent their future earnings. Yes, this is a shame.

And okay, yes, the people largely staying at home at the moment are women. But if you want to change that surely one should be looking at the mismatches in maternity and paternity leave in most (Western) countries, and the disparity in male and female earning potential (which is smaller than most feminists like to claim if one controls for the time taken out of the labour market to have children).

That isn’t really anything to do with basic income.


reuben 07.10.07 at 2:07 pm

16: Certainly the gendered disparity in earning potential is far less than the gendered disparity in time taken off paid labour due to children, both in the first year or two of the child’s life and thereafter.

What would you suggest as a way of dealing with those two disparities?

As for my own thoughts re changing the former, the lessons from Scandinavia seem to be that you need a carrot and stick approach to get men to take time off. Critics of paternity leave claim that the less than full uptake is evidence of revealed preference (ie men don’t want to take time off paid labour to care for their children), but I suspect that it has a lot more to do with private v public sector employment, and with the cultural of male indispensability in the former. Eg comparing Denmark and Sweden, my understanding is that fathers are much more likely to take full paternity leave in the latter, because the wage replacement is the same or similar whether they are in public or private sector jobs; whereas in Denmark, putlic sector wage replacement is much higher than private sector. (And of course women tend to work in the public and men in private sectors, so an imbalance in wage replacement incentivises men to not take leave.) Happy to be corrected by those who know more.

As someone who’s about to become a father and who is very frustrated by the gender imbalance in parental leave (I’m in the UK), what I’d like to see is something along the lines of one month off immediately after birth for both parents, then sequential, required periods off for each parent – eg something like seven additional months for the mother, so she could breastfeed readily up til the child is nine months old, then something like three months off for the father. Both parents at equal wage replacement rates. And I’d be damn tempted to make the man’s time required, otherwise the hidden penalties for taking it (eg being looked down upon at work and thus losing promotion opportunities) would be too high to get much uptake, I suspect.

That’s a very imperfect solution, but it does go some way towards making the cost of employing a father nearer to that of employing a mother, and it does redress some of the leave imbalance while also taking on board the key role of breastfeeding.

I’d take that over a universal benefit any day.


Katherine 07.10.07 at 2:35 pm

“Childcare is about replacing a parent’s duties with paid labour”. Depends what you mean by “parent’s duties” I suppose. Does the same apply to sending your kids to school, say? When, in your not-so-humble-opinion, does a “parent’s dutires” start and end? And at what point does your opinion on what constitutes a “parent’s duties” override the opinion of the actual parent?


alabastercodify 07.10.07 at 2:38 pm

“I’d be damn tempted to make the man’s time required”.

Would you?

How wonderful for the rest of us.


reuben 07.10.07 at 2:51 pm

Yes, I know that conservatives and libertarians won’t be happy if I become King of the Universe. My heart weeps, and you should quake.

As it is now, we have a highly gendered solutions imposed on us, one which strongly pushes mothers in one direction and fathers in another. If that happens to be a solution that you’re happy with, ok.

Anyway, there’s no sense in you and I arguing over this. We disagree, and my solution isn’t going to happen anytime soon. What I would like to hear is what sanbikinoraion thinks.


Sebastian Holsclaw 07.10.07 at 3:47 pm

I’ve never understood how you would get around an enormous inflationary effect from a basic income large enough to live off of (when implemented). Housing, food, transportation and consumer goods are all rival goods. If the demand for them goes up because of access to a basic income, their prices will also go up. Even if you posit that the number of workers will stay level (which seems like a very bad assumption to me), the amount of these goods being produced will not automatically increase. Since everyone gets the basic income I don’t see how you can avoid inflation destroying its value.


Slocum 07.10.07 at 3:57 pm

well of course feminists should prioritise the interests of women (etc.). That’s why we’re called feminists…

Hmmm. I was under the impression that at least some feminists were interested in equality of the sexes rather than maximizing female advantage wherever possible.

For example, what do feminists make of the fact that women earn 67% of the bachelor’s degrees and 71% of the master’s degrees among African Americans? Do feminists consider this a serious problem or a smashing success? Or would they rather not think about it?


sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 4:03 pm

Seb @ 21 first:

The aim of a basic income is provide exactly enough to live on for everyone (at least, in my world). Since almost everyone is already gaining an income large enough to live on (through welfare payments) (if they didn’t, they would definitionally be dead). In that case, surely the exact same spending by individuals is going on in terms of rent, food, electricity and other necessities, because people are currently buying exactly those necessities.


sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 4:07 pm

katherine @ 18:

I was under the impression that there were significant positive benefits to children of being raised by their own parents in the first few years of life. I think that therefore labelling that as a “duty” is not entirely unreasonable, if perhaps going a little too far.

Where you draw the line is up to you, of course, but even at primary school, when children are learning to read, write and add up, I imagine that a trained schoolteacher will provide a better quality of education than the average parent. I certainly hope that’s the case!


sanbikinoraion 07.10.07 at 4:14 pm

reuben @ 17:

That’s all pretty interesting. I’ve always been in favour of the Swedish (ah, Sweden!) system which I believe is that the parents get 18 months to divide up as they see fit, on the basis that the parents probably have a better idea of how to balance their time for their kids than the state does.

In terms of state payments to parents to say “thank you for choosing to have a child instead of a career”, I have honestly never really considered what the state’s moral responsibility is in this respect (you want kids? Why don’t you pay for them?) and what it should therefore realistically be doing (we’re running out of children, you say?).

My gut feeling is that the state should attempt to neutralize the effect of childbearing in a half-hearted but gender-equal sort of way. But then, I’m one of those people who believes that there are far too many humans in the world today and it would not be a great tragedy if there were a few less being born.

Not paying a great deal out would also mean that generally richer people (and thus generally smarter people) would have kids, improving the mental capacity of the gene pool, something that, after a generation of teenage white trash pregnancy ushered in by New Labour, we could well benefit from.

But that makes me sound like a scary eugenicist.


Katherine 07.10.07 at 4:21 pm

Sanbikinoraion @ 24 – you’ve made a number of assumptions there as to the benefits of different types of childcare without, if I may say so, actually finding out whether your assumptions are correct.

BUt, more importantly, you haven’t addressed my last question – at what point does your opinion on what constitutes a “parent’s duties” override the opinion of the actual parent?


Sebastian Holsclaw 07.10.07 at 4:22 pm

“The aim of a basic income is provide exactly enough to live on for everyone (at least, in my world). Since almost everyone is already gaining an income large enough to live on (through welfare payments) (if they didn’t, they would definitionally be dead). In that case, surely the exact same spending by individuals is going on in terms of rent, food, electricity and other necessities, because people are currently buying exactly those necessities.”

That isn’t correct. The people suggesting a basic income seem to think it will be an improvement. Furthermore, since the basic income would be given to every citizen, it creates inflationary pressure beyond the necessities.


Tim Worstall 07.10.07 at 4:39 pm

Sebastian: given that no one is suggesting that money simply be printed to pay for a CBI I’m confused as to why you think it will be inflationary? It’s simply redistribution of the currently extant incomes in the economy after all.


Sebastian Holsclaw 07.10.07 at 4:59 pm

“It’s simply redistribution of the currently extant incomes in the economy after all.”

To the extent that it changes the balance of what people buy, of course it isn’t. And this ‘extant incomes in the economy’ isn’t a static piece anyway. To act as if it wouldn’t change how incomes are earned is silly (especially at the enormous tax rates it would take).


Ingrid Robeyns 07.10.07 at 6:18 pm

Matt, thanks for the Alstott suggestion. I’ve read both the Alstott/Ackerman book and the Alstott papers, though both when they came out (which is a while ago) and I recall not being impressed by her gender analysis, since she is not tackling what I consider the core root of gender injustice (being the gender divison of labour and the social structures that create it). From what I recall (off the top of my head after several years) she wants to financially compensate for care, but not to build in incentives or structures to redistribute. And that’s precisely my concern with the gender effects of the basic income proposal. But I should have reread it before writing this post, I grant.

I know that Van Parijs argues that people who are currently only able to work at lousy jobs (his terminology) that are poorly paid, will be in a better bargaining position. But I am not sure that this will be true in reality. For one thing, it is not what we see right now in the caring professions (as reuben rightly highlights): in many countries there are constantly large number of vacancies for nurses and other kind of carers, and still the wages don’t go up. We need a cultural/value change which would make us willing to pay more for care work, and I doubt that that will work through a social policy such as basic income (I think, in fact, that compulsary paternity leave may have a better effect on this, from what I’ve read on the experiences of fathers who take such leaves). Second problem is that most people want to earn more than the absolute poverty level; hence they will still have to go and sell their labour on the labour market, so will they really be in a better bargaining position? I think only if the basic income would be high enough, but there I think that feasability and sustainability issues make that unlikely to be a realistic scenario.

By the way, don’t bother reading the paper, the link is just there for the sake of information, but it’s written for politicians hence not necessarily the kind of academic piece you might expect ;-)


harry b 07.10.07 at 6:31 pm

reuben — I’ve just finished a draft of a paper advocating the reform you describe in #17. Did you get it from somewhere? We got it from fiddling around with ideas, but we’d love to cite soemone proposing it in print. I’ll do a post on the paper once its up on the web.


matt 07.10.07 at 7:07 pm


I looked at Alsott’s paper in the Van Parijs volume again briefly before going out this morning and I think you’re right that it’s not particularly strong on the gender analysis. (In fairness it’s only 5 pages long, I guess.) I was struck by one comment you make:
_”in many countries there are constantly large number of vacancies for nurses and other kind of carers, and still the wages don’t go up._”
I’m more than happy to take your word for it, but it’s surprising to me because, in the US, being a nurse, at least at a hospital, is a quite well paying job, and pay has only been rising for many years. It’s one of the few jobs I can think of where, with just a 4-year degree, one is nearly guarenteed to find a good paying job with lots of prospects of wage increases right after graduation. (My mother is a nurse who has slowly moved into management so I hear about such things quite a lot.) Odd that it would be so different in other countries.


harry b 07.10.07 at 7:42 pm

I think the same is true in the UK as the US — pay going up for nurses. Though it is also true that the barriers to entry have been going up, and the job has been changing a good deal.


Ingrid Robeyns 07.10.07 at 8:01 pm

matt, admittedly I’m not informed by the most recent statistics but rather by what I see around me, and in only two countries where I’m watching these kind of social issues. I would in fact be very happy to be wrong, and to be corrected. I think, though, that the degree requirements for carers (nurses, child minders, elderly carers) in different countries differ drastically. For example, in some countries nursing requires a university degree, whereas in the Netherlands and Belgium that is not the case (what about other EU countries?)
I recently saw a local add for an elderly carer in an offical institution paying less than 6 Euro before tax. I think these are horribly low wages. But if a CT reader has more general and reliable and internatinoally comparible info, I’d be very grateful if you’d share it.


Matt 07.10.07 at 8:29 pm

In the US now it’s essentially required to have a BS in nursing to be a nurse in a good paying position. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me giving that the job has become significantly more complex over the years. Many nurses have an MS (and some have an MS in nursing with a different BA or BS altogether.) When my mother started as a nurse nearly 35 years ago (though she didn’t work for about 12 or 13 years) most nurses (including her) had only AA (two year) degrees in nursing, though at least that has been required in the US for a very long time.

I know a bit about the situation in Russia, where nurses study for 4 years, but it’s a poorly paid job that’s not well respected. (Also, you can start in nursing school after the 9th year of eduction, and if you go for all 10 years of regular education you only go for 3 years.)


terence 07.10.07 at 9:08 pm

To the first commentor, way up thread: Even with your numbers you’re still looking at a 16% increase in government spending. Does any party in England have the political capital to raise this? And, even if they did, are you sure that you wouldn’t want it spent on the NHS and schools?


reuben 07.11.07 at 8:01 am

Harry – sorry, that’s just something I pulled out of my behind (though not without a bit of thought). I haven’t seen it worked through anywhere, so am really looking forward to your post and paper.


Katherine 07.11.07 at 9:29 am

Slocum @ 22 – you are joking right? I’m sure that whilst socialists would wish long term for the attainment of equalisation of wealth, that doesn’t mean they are going to be campaigning for the rights of the rich until then. Similarly, whilst I’m sure a feminist will tell you the ultimate goal is some form of equality between the sexes, I’m pretty sure the focus is going to be on the oppressed group overall (ie the women) in the meantime.

And I love your North American college graduate example, because that neatly segues into the point about feminism being/not being about middle class, rich, women. I’m sure if you want a conversation about higher education in North American colleges you could get one. But I’m pretty sure also that in the field of education, since the US of A isn’t in fact the entire world, a feminist might want to talk about the denial of primary education to girl children in the Third World. Or they might want you to take a gander at, say, Iran, where the large number of female graduates doesn’t seem to have translated into an equal power structure in the country. Just for example.

I’m noting also the phenomenon quite well known amongst feminists that, in an open conversation about women or a subject pertaining to them, the chances are that someone, somehow, will manage to turn the conversation around to not being about women after all. The feminist equivalent of Godwin’s Law, if you will. You’ve succeeded admirably on that. Bravo.


sanbikinoraion 07.11.07 at 10:35 am

terence @ 36:

Yes, I believe that it’s really easily attainable. For the half of the country that are working already, taxing an additional £2-3k on average, when you’re giving them £6k in return would surely not be contentious?

In terms of political capital for persuading the general public that this would be a good thing, I’m less convinced. Most people who I talk to about it have the instant reaction that it would be a terrible idea, and I’m not entirely sure why.


sanbikinoraion 07.11.07 at 10:58 am

katherine @ 26 & 18:

I think you’re thinking more deeply about my comment than is really necessary. All I mean about “replacing a parents’ duties with paid labour” is that you’re paying someone else to change the nappies. My point was really that I don’t think that childcare costs are relevant to a discussion on the pros and cons of basic income to women, when it is other effects that are, imarhacotyvm*, leading to the prevalence of women taking time off to care for children instead of men.

To answer your last question, I don’t really believe my opinion is worth that much (but typing things on the Internet is cheap, so I do it), which is why I’m for reform of the UK parental leave system to allow parents to choose for themselves how much parental leave each parent chooses to take.

[* In My Actually Rather Humble And Correctable Opinion Thank You Very Much]


Mark Wadsworth 07.11.07 at 1:36 pm

“The monthly cost of a full-time child care place in the Netherlands is over 1.000 Euro; so the basic income for children will not cover that cost”

How about if we have nursery vouchers on top? Speaking for the UK, there are several different overlapping schemes, some means tested, some flat rate and some tax breaks, which add up to about £80 per week, enough to pay for three days nursery per week.


sanbikinoraion 07.11.07 at 2:12 pm

I know that this is a radical proposal but how about people pay to support their own children that they’ve chosen to have? Subsidizing the production of babies in the UK over the last ten years seems to be to have given rise to an underclass of poor single mothers who live on benefits because doing so is better than the alternative (not having baby and working in shitty call centre 40hrs pw).


H. E. Baber 07.11.07 at 3:11 pm

A basic income would give women bargaining chips and a cushion so that they wouldn’t be forced into exploitative, boring, dead-end pink-collar jobs in the service sector–where overcrowding keeps wages down. The “end of welfare as we know it” has been a bonanza for employers of unskilled female workers: without financial support from husbands, without state support and without access to traditionally male blue-collar jobs women queue up for this miserable, underpaid, boring drudge work. I wonder if it’s an accident that Walmart took off just when women’s safety nets disintegrated.

There may be disadvantages that offset this enormous benefit to women. I’m amazed though that this one hasn’t figured significantly in the discussion. It strongly suggests the skewed interest of some feminists in promoting the interests of relatively privileged women for whom the danger of ending up behind the Walmart checkstand isn’t a real concern.

In fact, I’m furious that it isn’t. The most important feminist issue is making it possible for women to avoid boring, dead-end, poorly paid women’s work–possibly by providing some financial cushion so that they aren’t forced to do it and certainly by fighting sex discrimination in employment so that working class women can get guy jobs–in construction, in skilled blue-collar trades and the like.


Ingrid Robeyns 07.12.07 at 6:21 am

h.e.baber: to my mind poor working conditions are only in part a feminist issue, but rather an issue of the labour movement – it’s also a problem for many disadvantaged men. I’ve responded in #30 why I doubt that a basic income (which, in order to be feasible, I take it will be at a low level, most likely not even reaching what counts as the relative poverty treshold in the USA) will increase poor women’s bargaining power on the labour market, since the level will be too low to really allow them to opt out of the labour market. To change their bargaing condition you need modern labour unions or politicians who understand the need of a regulated (which does not have to equal inflexible) labour market. So I’d say: In the US, first fight for decent working conditions and minimum wages, and then think about basic income. Chances are real that if you have the second, it will be used to argue that people no longer need the former.

Comments on this entry are closed.