The universal basic income debate has been raging for some years, with politicians and people hotly divided over the notion of their government paying every citizen a set amount of money on a regular basis, without requiring work to be completed.
The idea of everybody, including society’s most marginalised, being able to afford their basic needs is popular with mostly libertarian and progressive politicians, and there is some empirical evidence that it can quickly increase a country’s productivity and reduce domestic inequality.
Conservative economists, however, reject the idea, citing its “impossibly expensive” nature.
Economic feasibility is a critical question for any government program, of course, and it is particularly relevant in the developing world, where universal basic income (UBI) has been suggested as a development tool.
One reason that Southeast Asian countries, for example, have struggled to improve gender equality (despite avowals of committment to the idea) is increased economic insecurity, which has widened the gap between men and women and separated women from opportunities.
Might UBI be one way to both empower women and reduce hunger in the region?
… Tamara Nair is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre) at RSIS, Nanyang Technological University.