Daniel Sage challenges the centrality of paid employment

In a new blog post for British Politics and Policy at LSE, Daniel sage explains why we need to challenge the centrality of paid employment in our society, and how a Citizen’s Basic Income could assist with that process:

To combat the harm of unemployment more effectively and enduringly, it is necessary to challenge the importance paid work has to human identity.  The starting point is to consider social policy reforms that change people’s relationship with work: including the value we attach to work, the time we devote to work, and how work frames our judgements of other people.  This will not be easy. In the UK at least, there is a political climate in which both the mainstream Left and Right see paid work as a solution to all manner of economic, social, and moral problems. We are a society divided into ‘strivers and skivers’ and where work frames many social interactions and relationships.

Yet it is possible to imagine policies that are viable within current political, economic and welfare state structures that still hold the radical objective of reconstructing work and the work ethic. Universal basic income (UBI) is one such policy. UBI has many admirers and proponents across the political spectrum, yet a particularly powerful case can be made for the potential UBI has to recast what work means. UBI could dilute the work ethic by making it easier and more common for people to opt out of the labour market: to retrain, get more education, care or enjoy more leisure. The boundaries between work and non-work could blur and our understanding of what ‘work’ means could widen. As the social category of ‘the unemployed’ became more ambiguous, there could be far less shame, and fewer harmful effects, of not engaging in paid work.