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Basic Income in the UK: Assessing Prospects for Reform in an Age of Austerity

  • Luke Martinelli (a1) and Nick Pearce (a2)

Of all the European welfare states, the UK most clearly represents the liberal regime type – notwithstanding a shift towards ‘social investment’ under New Labour – as defined by its residual, targeted benefit structure and increasingly punitive activation regime. The idiosyncratic institutional characteristics of the UK welfare state give rise to challenges and opportunities with respect to prospects for the introduction of (some form of) basic income. Despite a large and growing population of ‘disaffected’ precarious and low-paid workers and widespread dissatisfaction with the increasingly punitive sanctions regime, significant barriers to the emergence of a sufficiently large and coherent constituency of support for basic income remain. Thus, while institutional inertia and political considerations may preclude anything more than marginal changes to the existing system, a number of policy options falling short of a ‘full’ basic income – but retaining some of its core features – appear relatively feasible.

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