Universal Basic Income and the Meaning of Work

February 25, 2021 - February 26, 2021
Centre For Ethics, Philosophy And Public Affairs, University of St. Andrews

Saint Andrews
United Kingdom

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  • Scots Philosophical Association


University of St. Andrews
University of St. Andrews

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Confirmed Speakers:

Deryn Thomas – University of St. Andrews/University of Stirling

Maria Koumenta – Queen Mary University of London

Guy Standing – SOAS University of London

Tom Parr – University of Warwick

Angie O'Sullivan -- University of Edinburgh

The Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown has provided new momentum for the advocates of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), spurred on by decisions of various governments to pay an income to their citizens with no work requirement attached.  This comes on the heels of 30 years of pro-UBI scholarship, culminating in the launch of several small-scale real-world UBI trials in various countries and municipalities over the last decade.  Discussions of the UBI are now very much part of the policy mainstream.

The UBI is seen as a way to 1) respond to the job losses and casualisation that are seen as a likely result of increasing automation, 2) redistribute the wealth that is now concentrated in the hands of the super-rich and 3) force employers to offer better working conditions.  This workshop will be focused on the philosophical underpinnings of the UBI and a general consideration of the meaning of work in the context of a labour market, including (but not limited to) the following questions:

  • On what basis does a citizen become entitled to share in her state’s wealth? Does it depend on her making a contribution to the generation of that wealth, and, must she be in paid employment to make a contribution?
  • Can the UBI be defended against the charge that by offering the same benefit to all citizens it treats unfairly those whose needs are, through no fault of their own, greater?
  • At what level would the UBI have to be set in order to achieve something morally worth achieving? Which theory of distributive justice (e.g., capability theory, liberal egalitarianism, socialism) should set the standard here?
  • How is the meaning of work determined and affected by institutional arrangements within the economy?

This workshop will follow a presentation-and-commentary format.

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February 25, 2021, 8:00am BST

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