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Sustainable welfare: How do universal basic income and universal basic services compare?

21 November, 2021

Sustainable welfare: How do universal basic income and universal basic services compare?

Milena Buchs

Research paper   Transport & Mobility

Milena Büchs

Abstract

The newly emerging concept of sustainable welfare refers to welfare systems which aim to satisfy everyone’s needs within planetary boundaries and to decouple the welfare-growth nexus. Both Universal Basic Income (UBI) and Universal Basic Services (UBS) have been discussed as suitable, but potentially competing, approaches that could support sustainable welfare. This paper contributes to this debate by asking how UBI and UBS compare in relation to four sustainable welfare criteria: a) planetary boundaries, b) needs satisfaction, c) fair distribution, and d) democratic governance. The paper argues that UBI and UBS are not so much conflicting but complementary approaches for supporting sustainable welfare. UBI focuses on the consumption side of the economy while UBS addresses the production side more directly, both of which would be relevant in any sustainable welfare system. Sustainable welfare outcomes of UBI and UBS would be shaped by the institutional contexts within which they operate, especially by the governance of markets, collective provisioning systems and decision-making at all levels. More attention needs to be paid to these institutional contexts when discussing potential sustainable welfare outcomes of UBI and UBS.

Publication details

Büchs, M. 2021. Sustainable welfare: How do universal basic income and universal basic services compare? Ecological Economics, 189: 107152. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2021.107152Opens in a new tab  

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