How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected policy-making and policy-discourse around UBI? Findings of a global survey

Posted on February 3, 2023

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What happened to the idea of UBI during the COVID pandemic? We conducted a global survey of BIEN members and other people interested in UBI in 2020. According to our research there was only one country, Tuvalu in the Pacific, which introduced a temporary form of BI. Some other countries claimed that they had introduced a temporary BI. However, it is not sufficient for a government to name some financial support BI when it does not fulfil at least some essential criteria. Some people claimed that the regressive furlough scheme in the UK was a form of BI which is not correct. You can find the abstract of our survey study below and can read the summarized findings of the survey here at the website of BIEN.

The Covid pandemic has led to an increased interest in Universal Basic Income (UBI) in 2020. Many governments and advocates have proposed instituting an emergency, temporary or partial basic income to financially support people during the pandemic and related lockdown measures. Yet there has been concern that the clearly defined term UBI has been (mis)used to describe a variety of policies which bear only some semblance of the original concept.

A group of citizen-researchers with links to BIEN conducted a global survey in the second half of 2020 in order to ask:

  1. What emergency social protection policies have been introduced in countries around the world and how have they been framed in relation to UBI?
  2. What types of Universal Basic Services (UBS) are in place in these countries?
  3. What organisations exist in these countries to promote UBI?

We obtained responses from 16 countries across six continents. This paper presents an analysis of the survey and findings in relation to the current state of UBI debates and Covid policy responses around the globe. It also grapples with the challenges of the survey project, and considers opportunities and difficulties in continuing to expand such survey work in the future.