World Bank releases draft report supporting basic income

Basic Income Earth Network

The World Bank has released a draft report, published on the 20th of April, titled “The changing nature of work”, in which basic income is suggested as policy to “be read through the lens of ‘progressive universalism’”. This progress to a universal system should depend, according to World Bank analysts, on “basic social insurance” and also on a reliance on “flexible labour markets”, in a relationship that would not do without, though, targeting social assistance schemes.

The reason for maintaining conditional social assistance is, in this context, to “prioritize those at the bottom of the [income] distribution”. This maybe contrary to the (universal) basic income principle, but World Bank analysts consider important to identify those “who are the most vulnerable, where they live, and how vulnerable they are”. To address rising inequality and profound changes in the nature of work in the next few decades, basic income-like schemes are seen in this report as having “pros and cons”, which “may address challenges in coverage and take-up programs”. The advantages referred relate to more coverage and reduced stigmatization, but at the same time warnings are made to new possible challenges in administrative ruling and financing.

The report underlines the need to relax strict work regulations, stating that “stronger social protection systems can go hand in hand with more flexible labour markets”. A particular concern for labour costs to firms is expressed, especially when compared to technology. The World Bank’s view is that labour costs should generally go down (including unemployment benefits and minimum wages), associated with a “reformed social assistance and insurance systems”.

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