Universal basic income: Potential and limitations from a gender perspective

Over the past decades, a universal basic income (UBI) has repeatedly been put forward as a means to address increasing labour market precarity, jobless growth and rising poverty and inequality. Most recently, proponents have argued that UBI could provide much-needed protection in the face of economic, environmental and health crises, such as COVID-19. The implications of UBI for gender equality have received insufficient attention in these debates—despite the fact that feminists have long discussed its pros and cons. Some feminists hold that an unconditional income independent of paid work would enhance women’s agency in families, households, the workplace and the community, with particular benefit for those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. Others caution that, in a climate of fiscal tightening and austerity, UBI could be used to justify the rollback of state responsibility and funding for other essential support measures, including care services, housing, education and health care. Building on their contributions, this policy brief discusses the potential and limitations of UBI from a gender perspective and points to some of the specific design features that policymakers need to consider to make UBI work for women and transgender and gender-diverse people