The Potential of an Unconditional Basic Income within Social Security Systems in Europe

Comparison of Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom

Master's Thesis, 2012

78 Pages, Grade: C















The current social security systems in Europe have not been able to deal with increased traditional and new risks such as unemployment or work-life balance. One suggested solution to this problem has gained more popular and academic support in recent years: the idea of a universal, unconditional basic income (UBI). This study, therefore, examines whether and how UBI could support social security systems in the UK, Germany and Sweden in order to achieve their aims and fulfil their functions, and thus to improve insufficient social security.

Since effectiveness and efficiency describe the functionality of social security systems, the study focuses on these two aspects. These aspects will be used to theoretically discuss expected effects of UBI along with the main aims and functions of key policies in each country in regard to their effectiveness and efficiency.

In comparison with current social security schemes in each country, the study demonstrates that UBI is able to deal better with several traditional and new risks, despite problems with higher expectations and living standards. UBI provides basic needs and will especially pull risk away from people in need. Additionally, it alleviates poverty and fosters social cohesion. These achievements help to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the social security systems in the UK, Germany and Sweden.

Keywords: Basic income, Welfare, Social Security, Social Risk, Poverty, Social Cohesion.

Word Count: 19.928


I would like to thank my supervisor Kjell Nilsson for his guidance and constructive help. I am also glad to count Benny Ekvall, Catharine Farestad, Josefin Meyer, Justin Chan and Nathan Paul among my friends and to have enjoyed their great and helpful support at any time. My special appreciation belongs to Anke Gollow, Becca Palmer and Norma and Thorsten Farestad for their hospitality during the last month of this study. I would also like to thank my family who made this achievement possible as well as Marcus Braeger who introduced me to the idea of basic income. Last but not least, I would like to mention my recognition to societies and their achievements, despite my often critical position. Without them, I would probably still try to hunt bears and mammoths barehanded.

"Der Mensch ist noch sehr wenig, wenn er warm wohnt und satt gegessen hat. Aber er muss warm wohnen und satt zu essen haben, wenn sich die bessere Natur in ihm regen soll." 1

~ Friedrich Schiller, 1791 ~


Figure 1. Dimensions of the mixed economy of welfare (Powel 2011: 19)



In recent years, the idea of a universal, unconditional basic income (UBI) has been seen as a solution to the heavy critique about the incapacity of current social security systems to respond to increased social and economic risks for individuals in European societies and therefore for societies themselves. It has been argued that UBI would be able to deal with these risks better than current social security systems (Howard 2005, Jordan 2006, Standing 2002, Van Parijs 1995, 2001). These systems with their focus on the "protection against work incapacity" (Kemp 2008: 164) contradict current developments in demographic structures. They were designed on the analogy of a more homogenous lifestyle in the late nineteenth century (Walker 2005: 260). But nowadays, people live longer, enjoy longer retirement, have diverse careers and relationships, etc. (Giddens 1990; Goodin 2001: 92; Kemp 2008; Rowlingson 2003: 26; Seeleib-Kaiser 2008b: 1). This development creates an increased diversity of lifestyle. If current social security systems expect people to have only one single career and one everlasting relationship in order to enjoy security, then people are confronted with so-called 'new social risks'. These systems, therefore, are not able to protect people as they are supposed to help against risks (Walker 2005: 260).

Remedies to these problems have been seen in the neo-liberal approach. Unregulated free markets would be more efficient, provide higher flexibility and create more income than existing welfare systems (Bryson 2003). Despite increased economic growth in the last decades, problems of unprotected heterogeneous lifestyles, lack of adjustment to demographic changes, and increasing unemployment and insecurity still persist. The economic and social situation of those with disadvantages in the competition in unregulated free markets due to limited information, mobility and resources - who represent the majority of European societies - has become even worse (Jordan 2006). This, therefore, has not only been seen as a threat for affected individuals but for European societies themselves. New paths or at least additional components to the neo-liberal approach, which improve the potential competitiveness of disadvantaged people and their social security, are inevitable. As in the beginning mentioned, it is assumed that the idea of UBI would meet these requirements. An idea that might sound provoking but also fascinating for the ideal of Libert é, É galit é and Fraternit é 2 as the abolition of slavery more than two-hundred years ago.

UBI implies that any individual should gain a specific amount of money without any requirements that makes it possible for individuals to participate in their social, political and economic environment without being dependent on further income. They would enjoy full freedom to choose their activities. Due to its universal character, it would be paid regardless of age, sex, class or ethnicity. Everyone would receive the same amount. It would be paid as recognition of one’s belonging to this society rather than compensation or charity.

The idea, however, is not new (Lewis 2005: 1). In his famous work Agrarian Justice in the 18th century, Thomas Paine, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and an important liberal philosopher during the Enlightenment, was one of the first to promote a similar idea. According to him every person in a society should have a share of the society’s wealth. Many were motivated by him to develop this idea into different proposals such as social dividend, stakeholder grants, negative income tax, citizen income or basic income. Although they differ in name and content, they all bear this idea of the right to have a share of the society’s wealth - either in form as an income or a dividend.

In recent years, basic income has gained increased public and academic support. Movements such as the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG), Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) and its affiliations have been launched to promote the idea. An initiative is currently underway to implement UBI in the constitution of Switzerland and has gained much national but also international media attention. If the initiative is successful, Switzerland will be the first country that introduces UBI for its citizens. This will enable the first serious empirical research on the effects of UBI in a European country. Due to that UBI has not been implemented in any country, empirical data is not available yet. But there are projects similar to UBI. For example, different projects based on the idea of basic income have been launched in Namibia, India, Brazil or Mexico in order to tackle and prevent poverty. Alaska has already been paying an annual and unconditional dividend to its citizens since 1982. But each of these projects misses out on at least one of the characteristics of UBI. For example, the amount paid by the Alaska Permanent Fund is far too low to be representative. In other cases, the cash transfer is either conditional or only limited to a selected group. They, therefore, provide an insight in the possibilities of UBI but cannot be used as valid proof. Research on UBI has still to be based on theoretical and normative discussions.

Although the conducted research on UBI has mainly been in favour of UBI, there are also some critiques. Most of them focus on the feasibility and effects on work incentives. These are reasonable concerns and should gain more attention. But there is another aspect that is more vital in respect of social security and that has not been addressed appropriately: "The effects of BI on productive and social relations would vary enormously with the set of other measures which accompanied it" (Jordan 2006: 252).

According to this quote, the effects of UBI will vary between countries with different legal and social landscapes. There might be conditions that reverse assumed effects but also conditions that support them. This assumption is supported by considerations about the desirability of UBI by Robert M. Solow (2001: ix-x) that can be framed in following questions: First, is UBI itself desirable? Second, are side effects and consequences of UBI desirable? Third, is the way as it is realised desirable? In particular the third question supports the conditionality of UBI. Thus, it becomes necessary to analyse UBI in relation to its respective social environment.

Responsibility for the protection of people against the above mentioned risks and thus for their social security are social security systems. These systems not only protect people, but also shape their social environment due to their set rules for the participation and interaction in a society. Social security systems, on the other hand, are determined by their aims, objectives and functions. Countries have implemented several social policies to achieve these aims. Whether and how good they are achieved is addressed by questions about effectiveness and efficiency of a social security system and its policies. Effectiveness relates to the former and efficiency to the latter question. Both together provide a good understanding about the quality of a social security system (Walker 2005).

The intention of this research, therefore, is to explore the hypothetical potential of UBI to support different European social security systems that they are able to achieve their aims and fulfil their functions more effective and efficient, and thus to improve the currently insufficient social security.

It is reasonable to expect that the potential of UBI depends on the respective aim or function and their current effectiveness and efficiency. This requires the examination of following questions: What is UBI and what can be expected from UBI? Where do social security systems differ? What are their aims, objectives and functions? How can effectiveness and efficiency of them be understood? And how may UBI improve their effectiveness and efficiency?

Since there is no empirical data about UBI available as mentioned above, this research is based only on a theoretical and normative discussion. Hence, the focus is on concepts and policies rather than facts; and results have always been understood as limited in regard to the hypothetical discussion and the hermeneutical limitations of the research.

In regard to the selection of social security systems, it has to be considered that their aims are highly dependent on their respective welfare type (ibid.). One of the most used typologies is Esping-Andersen's welfare regimes. He distinguishes between liberal, conservative and social democratic welfare regimes. Although it enjoys high academic acceptance, this categorization has been criticised on its functionality and utility. Welfare states are hardly equated to these pure types. They are rather hybrid and difficult to categorize. Despite this shortcoming, it is still reasonable to use them as a basis and guide for an analysis (Arts et al. 2002).

Other approaches for welfare research suggest focusing on provision, finance and regulation of welfare states to deal with shortcomings of Esping-Andersen's welfare regimes (Seeleib-Kaiser 2008b). The main focus here is mainly on the private - public dichotomy but also includes other actors in European welfare systems. For example, it is the aim to answer whether welfare instruments are provided or financed by the state or by the market. Regardless of the favoured approach, the selection of cases will include the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany. In Esping-Andersen’s classification, the UK belongs to the liberal, Germany to the conservative and Sweden to the social democratic welfare regime. According to Seeleib-Kaiser's approach of mixed economy of welfare, the UK represents a system with policy implementations rather provided and financed by the market with low regulation, Sweden a system rather provided and financed by the state with high regulation, and Germany somewhere between both. This study, therefore, will focus on social security systems in the UK, Germany and Sweden.


In order to answer the research question, this study will start with considerations about the selected comparative method in chapter 2. This chapter also includes a critical discussion about the selection of cases, variables and data. Additionally, theoretical and ethical considerations are part of this section. This will help to create a reasonable and fruitful research design.

As it was mentioned above, it is important to define UBI and explore its affects. Chapter 3, therefore, introduces different definitions of UBI and provides arguments for the importance of universality and unconditionality, and why other forms fail to achieve these requirements. The demonstration of advantages and disadvantages of UBI is another aspect of this chapter in order to explain what has to be expected from UBI.

As social security systems are based on various types of welfare, chapter 4 examines differences in welfare. It discusses two analytical approaches for welfare: welfare regimes and mixed economy of welfare. In particular, the typology of welfare regimes helps to examine theoretical and ideological differences between social security systems and thus to create the context for the analysis. The mixed economy of welfare helps to overcome shortcomings of this typology because it adds the additional dimensions of provision, finance and regulation.

The aim of chapter 5 is to explain how social security can be understood in a European context. It illustrates that it is reasonable to concentrate on social policies and their aims, objectives and functions in order to discuss the meaning of social security and the potential of existing social policies to achieve these aims and fulfil these functions. Hence, it elaborates different main aims, objectives and functions of social security schemes. Each aspect will be confronted with considerations about UBI in order to increase contextuality and provide first insights.

With this theoretical background, arguments about UBI and characteristics of welfare types are discussed in connection to respective social security policies and their requirements in the UK, Sweden and Germany. This enables examination of the effects of UBI on, first, the effectiveness and, second, the efficiency of social security systems and their social policies in relation to before specified main aims and functions.


This chapter contains considerations about the applied methodology, the research design and the selection of cases. Since this research aims to explore the potential of UBI to support existing social security systems in the UK, Germany and Sweden that they are able to achieve their aims and fulfil their functions, it is reasonable to use comparative methods. As noted above, representative empirical data of UBI does not exist. It is only possible to discuss UBI theoretically. This requires the examination of arguments about UBI, and aims, objectives and functions of these systems. Results can be compared then in order to analyse whether the effectiveness and efficiency of these aims and functions have improved with UBI. Methods of text and discourse analysis are able to provide required instruments for this examination. These instruments shall be applied here.

It is recommended to critically use similar existing research designs as a guideline due to they serve as methodological safeguards. (Bennett et al. 2005: 24). The UK, Germany and Sweden have often been used in comparative studies as they are considered to be representative countries in Esping-Andersen's typology. The selection of these three cases, however, does not only represent his typology but it provides also a reasonable number. Data are manageable at the same time as the variance assures validity (ibid.: 83-84; Coppedge 1999: 472). Additionally, the application of Seeleib-Kaiser's approach helps to increase the required critical reflectiveness (Bennett et al. 2005: 24).

What regards to the selection of variables and their interpretation, the research objective is determinant (ibid.: 79). Due to the above stated intention of this research; effectiveness and efficiency are the dependent variables of this research. Since the examination of effectiveness and efficiency requires an analysis of an objective's performance (Walker 2005: 113-115), performances of different policies in order to achieve aims and functions of these social security systems, and thus their created conditions and requirements, are the independent variables.

Between these independent variables, equifinality can be expected. Equifinality means that independent variables affect each other and thus it is difficult to examine causal relations between independent and dependent variables (Bennett et al. 2005: 157). For instance, alleviation of poverty, protection against risk, and maintenance of income are some aims of social security. Loss of income does not have to lead to poverty, but poverty and loss of income can be perceived as risks together with other aspects. Policies for these aims, therefore, affect each other and are hardly to separate.

As discussed below, welfare and social security are perceived differently. The priority of aims depends on the perspective on an individual or the society. Hence, universally valid generalisations are difficult. Additionally, it is expected that the potential of UBI depends on the respective aim. It might have more potential in regard to one than to another aim. It is therefore the intention to treat each aim separately in order to solve the problem of equifinality. This principle is also applied on the aspects of efficiency.

As noted above, data about an implemented UBI in European countries do not exist. These variables are difficult to determine. They can only be discussed hypothetically. Results of this research, therefore, are not expected to be specific but more normative and abstract explanations (ibid.: 211; Jorgensen et al. 2002: 55). Techniques of discourse analysis methods, however, help to create and interpret missing required data as they are able to examine the meaning of words and concepts and how their patterns are structured (Jorgensen et al. 2002: 1). They are applied on existing theories about UBI, welfare and social security. Here again, previous studies and their arguments act as guideline. This enables an examination of the characteristics of UBI, and of welfare types that determine social security systems, and of vital categories of different aims and functions of social security as well as the selection of aims and functions themselves. It has to be noted that these examinations are interrelated and influence each other simultaneously. This helps to create an "order of discourse" that limits possible meanings. Otherwise used arguments would not be in context. In particular, due to that arguments about UBI address a field beyond the 'borders' of social security (ibid. 26-30, 56).

Furthermore, as it was mentioned in the introduction and will be further discussed in the next chapter about the definition of UBI, similar projects or conditional cash transfers miss important aspects of UBI and are outside of the 'field of discursivity'. Within this framework, the findings are analysed in relation to social security policies in order to determine effectiveness and efficiency.

Here, the selection is based on state-related policies, despite the argument below that other actors in provision, finance and regulation have to be considered in welfare and thus social security analyses. This limitation results from arguments about operationality and manageability above. For instance, the UK has alone more than a hundred different unemployment insurance providers. In regard to the scope of this study, this would exceed the framework. Arguments about other actors than the state will therefore be based on general statements from former analyses about these actors. The application of discourse analysis techniques also helps in this case.

This process of deconstructing and reconstructing will take place within a social constructionist philosophy. Discourse analyses often have social constructionist starting points (ibid.: 3). They assume that perceptions and knowledge are dependent on their construction by individuals from a subjective standpoint. Social realities, therefore, are not given or unchangeable facts. This requires that the individual position of the researcher and her values have to be considered in the interpretation of data, variables and results (Delanty 1997: 128; Fagan 2010: 95). It, therefore, has to be recognised that any interpretation might always be affected by the researcher's positive interest in UBI.

Additionally, some Feminist scholars have argued that researchers with a different social background than their research object often conduct the analyses without being reflective about their standpoint. For instance, intercultural studies have often been influenced by Eurocentrism or masculine experiences (Hekman 1997: 354). The selection of three European countries and their current social security schemes helps to deal with this problem of subjectivity to some extent. The inclusion of non-European countries would increase this problem. This is also accountable for southern or eastern European countries, since they are outside of the researcher's social background despite their potential for a different result. This selection also limits problems that could be caused by changes in time and space. Both time and space are able to alter conditions and thus have impact on the research results (Seeleib-Kaiser 2008b: 12). For instance, it would be possible that conditions for employment protection change (Liebmann 2012). Since such developments are hard to predict, this study will focus on current social security schemes and their policies.

This theoretical standpoint of relativity does not, however, mean that anything can be interpreted. It rather represents the awareness of "many truths" and helps this research to get beyond hermeneutic limitations (Sayer 2000: 91).


In order to analyse UBI and its effects on social security systems, it is important to define it first. This will be done by a comparative illustration of different definitions by selected advocates and organizations and a discussion of their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, arguments for and against UBI are discussed in order to provide a better understanding of UBI and the fundament for the analysis below.


Basic income has been promoted in different forms. Some definitions are formulated more in detail. Others have been kept broad in order to stimulate the public discourse. Their conceptions, however, mainly differ in interconnected points such as requirements, execution, participants and amount. The following selection of definitions shall illustrate the potential variance in conceptualizations. For instance, Philippe van Parijs, who has published several studies on basic income, defines basic income as

“an income paid by a government, at a uniform level and at regular intervals, to each adult member of society. The grant is paid, and its level is fixed, irrespective of whether the person is rich or poor, lives alone or with others, is willing to work or not. In most versions - certainly in mine - it is granted not only to citizens, but to all permanent residents” (van Parijs 2001: 5).

Another definition, provided by Standing, reads:

“The proposal is that every citizen, or legal resident, should have a right to receive a monthly basic income, either as a tax credit or a cash payment. It would be given to each person individually, regardless of age, marital status or work or labour status, and would be fully portable, being paid wherever the person was living in the country (Standing 2009: 299).

The Global Basic Income Foundation, who argues for a worldwide basic income that is managed by the United Nations, offers a rather open definition which characterizes basic income as “a guaranteed minimum income that is given unconditionally to all people in all countries” (Global Basic Income Foundation 2011). The Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), an international network for the promotion of basic income and organisation composed of interested individuals and groups, uses a more concrete definition:

“A basic income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. It is a form of minimum income guarantee that differs from those that now exist in various European countries in three important ways:

it is being paid to individuals rather than households;

it is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;

it is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered” (Basic Income Earth Network 2011).

Its German affiliation Netzwerk Grundeinkommen suggests the following definition:

“A basic income is a regular sum of money granted unconditionally by a political community to each of its members. There are four criteria underlying the idea of basic income:

A basic income provides individuals with a sustainable livelihood that enables social participation.

It constitutes an individual legal right. It is provided without means-testing.

It does not entail any obligation to work or perform other services in return” (Netzwerk Grundeinkommen).

One aspect all of the presented definitions have in common is their claim for unconditional access. However, there have been proposals for conditions. Most popular is the demand that recipients should perform at least any form of engagement (Solow 2001: xii). For example, Standing can imagine participation in the socio-political life as a condition in his discussion about requirements for UBI if anything should be required (Standing 2009: 322).

It is important to understand that a basic income that demands any service in return fails to accomplish its idea introduced in the beginning and would not differ to current social security policies. Existing benefit schemes in European countries contain mainly three aspects: the requirement to contribute, the verification of benefit demands, and the satisfaction of certain criteria in order to be entitled for benefits. Individuals can only enjoy benefits if they fulfil these requirements. Otherwise they are excluded. These benefits, therefore, are ‘limited rights’ or compensations rather than ‘real rights’. A right cannot coexist with requirements (ibid.: 299). UBI consequently differs from existing benefit schemes in European countries (van Parijs 2001: 7-8). It is unconditional and can be claimed at any time without any means-test or other proofs of needs. It is therefore a right and not a compensation or benefit. Hence, it has to be understood as a guaranteed base that enables a life in dignity, imparts security, and creates meaning according to one's own will. It provides more choices and higher independence than current social security schemes and their paternalistic character as it will be discussed below (Standing 2009: 299-300).

The term ‘guaranteed base’, however, requires more clarification. Van Parijs notes, that UBI faces the risk of falling too short (van Parijs 2001: 5, 8). If UBI would be set too low, it would be caught in the same trap as current social security benefits. People would be still dependent on the availability of labour or verification of benefit demands. UBI, therefore, has to be on a sufficient level that enables above mentioned requirements.

It, however, is unrealistic to argue that UBI could cover all needs. Needs can differ significantly between individuals. They are very dependent on individual circumstances and expectations. For instance, a handicapped individual needs much more than a non-handicapped individual for her daily survival. It is thus important to understand that a guaranteed base cannot be confused with all needs. In this regard, it is to be expected that there are risks that UBI cannot cover alone. In the case of the handicapped individual UBI might provide too little. UBI, therefore, is not a “full substitute for existing conditional transfers” (ibid.: 8). It is rather the base for further supplements if these are required. Hence, the claim of some advocates to implement UBI as substitute has to be refused.

The discussion about requirements and needs leads to questions about size and execution. Both have impact on inclusion and exclusion of individuals. They are decisive for the universal aspect of UBI, although many proposals do not address these questions in order to avoid misuse of any discussion about UBI. For instance, if a proposal suggests using residence rather than citizenship as requirement for access to UBI, it faces the risk to be mainly used as a political discourse about nationality. In regard to size, however, suggestions can be categorized into four types: UBI can be distributed either on a national or global level based either on citizenship or residence. For instance, UBI can be provided by a national government for either citizens or permanent residents. These two scenarios are included in the above mentioned definitions of Standing and van Parijs, although the latter states his preference for a version based on permanent residents. BIEN and Netzwerk Grundeinkommen do not explicitly address this point. In the case of Netzwerk Grundeinkommen, the term ‘political community’ enables many interpretations. The Global Basic Income Foundation, who argues for a global level on the other hand, does not address the question if citizenship or permanent residence should be decisive in their definition either.

Jordan, however, addresses this question to some extent in relation to solidarity and social cohesion (Jordan 2006: 252-253). He argues that UBI only for citizens on a national level would be easier to realise. UBI will have to be financed from taxes and taxes require a high solidarity. Such solidarity is easier to create via citizenship than other collective unities such as humanity for instance due to that nationality enjoys a higher priority in individual's socialisation. Additionally, if UBI was based on permanent residents, transnational mobility might increase. In this case social solidarity would be more challenged and UBI more difficult to legitimate (ibid.).

UBI on a global level could pose as a solution to reduce transnational mobility, but there are questions regarding the solidarity between countries and rules about migration and entitlements in other countries. It also includes the question if UBI should be provided and maintained as a human right by each country individually or if it should be implemented on an international global level; for example, by the European Union or the United Nations as the Global Basic Income Foundation proposes (ibid.).

There are also possibilities to define the kind of recipients along additional categories to citizenship and residence. The form of execution further determines recipients. For example, Milton Friedman’s negative income tax would only include those who are members of the labour market: employers, employees and unemployed persons. Others like retired people, caretakers, students, children, etc. would be excluded. The essential factor would be labour, which creates conditions that are in contradiction with its core idea as mentioned above. Another alternative is stakeholder grants. In this case, age would be the determinant. Due to that everyone would get a specific amount of money at the beginning of her adult life as start-up aid, everything would depend on her decisions at this point of life. Its amount would enable more freedom in the beginning - some suggest an amount around $80.000 - but it also bears more risk of erroneous decisions (van Parijs 2001: 10-13).

Which of these different characteristics will finally be realised - if at all - is mainly a question of feasibility and desirability. But in order to realise the universal aspect of UBI, neither a negative income tax nor a stakeholder grant resemble an appropriate design for UBI. Both exclude people or rather favour a social group. This is similar to current social security policies and is the subject of the discussion below. Additionally, proposals with permanent residence as a determinant for UBI receivers have a more universal character than those with citizenship. In the case of the citizen as determinant, immigrants with only permanent residence would be excluded for instance. They might be on the periphery of a society but still belong to it. It has also been argued that the current understanding of citizenship is unable to deal with social requirements in a highly globalist world. Consequently, a redefinition of citizenship is inevitable. Permanent residence as a key factor for citizenship has become more convincing than birthright (Farestad 2012). This is another reason why UBI has to be guaranteed for permanent residents in order to reach the most possible universal character if the discourse of citizenship does not change.


Expected effects of UBI are covered by arguments about the desirability of UBI. They can be categorized in terms of security, dignity, meaningfulness, independence, empowerment and choices. It is important to understand that they are hardly to be separated from each other but have ‘flowing borders’. They rather have to be understood as a means to structure the argumentation.

Security is a rather broad term, which suggests a variety of potential definitions. It can refer to political, economic, societal or environmental security for either societies or individuals for example (Sheehan 2005). But one point that threatens security regardless of its context in many ways is poverty. Poverty implies a threat for the economic and social existence of an individual. It is also a threat for social cohesion and social peace of a society. Its alleviation has become important enough to constitute an aim of any social security system as will be demonstrated below. It is also a major point in the argumentation for UBI.

Since everyone would get a monthly paid sum that is high enough to live in dignity according to its definition, UBI would eliminate poverty (Howard 2005: 130; Standing 2002: 212, 217; van Parijs 2001: 3). Poverty is mainly the result of insufficient income sources (Bachelet Jeria 2011: xxiv). A person that is not able to acquire enough income from whatever source faces the risk of poverty. It is undeniable that the well established ideology in European societies - paid work as the main resource for income and as protection against poverty - has been challenged (Birnbaum 2012: 5; Plant 1999: 61; Walker 2005: 34). High unemployment rates and their structural cause make it impossible for everyone to live according to this idea. The access to work is limited and not equal for every person. In addition, there is evidence that not every paid work provides sufficient wages. Hence, paid work alone cannot guarantee every person to avoid a life in poverty. UBI instead does not create a dependency of people on the labour market. It represents a high level of decommodification. It is able to protect every person against poverty without the requirement of good performance on the labour market (Pasma 2010: 9).

The aspect of insufficient wages is ignored by current social security systems, which are also designed according to this ideology. People are expected to participate in the labour market. As soon as 'appropriate labour' is available, benefits are denied, regardless of a sufficient wage or working conditions. In this case, one job is easily not enough.


1 With a warm home and enough to eat a human being is not yet very much, but he must have that warm home and enough to eat if his better nature is to be activated.

2 Liberty, equality and solidarity.

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The Potential of an Unconditional Basic Income within Social Security Systems in Europe
Comparison of Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom
Lund University  (Department of Sociology)
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Basic Income, Grundeinkommen, Wohlfahrt, welfare, social security, Soziale Sicherheit, Germany, Deutschland, Sweden, Schweden, Vereinigtes Königreich, United Kingdom, England, Großbritannien, poverty, Armut, risk, Riskio, security, Sicherheit, behaviour, Verhalten, Einkommen, Income, Inclusion, Inklusion
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Wolfgang Müller (Author), 2012, The Potential of an Unconditional Basic Income within Social Security Systems in Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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