The Politics of Universal Basic Income

The Universal Basic Income (UBI) has a long history. The idea to provide all citizens with an unconditional and regular income cash benefit without means-test or requirement[1] has been discussed as far back as the 18th century[2].

Thinkers on the right are attracted to its simplicity, which contrasts with the current complex welfare state arrangements in most advanced economies, its minimalism and its low adverse effects on work incentives, since it is paid irrespective of labour market participation.

On the left, people emphasise its universalism and unconditionality which would reduce the gaps in coverage of current benefits and ensure labour is decommodified, thereby increasing the power of workers to bargain for better working conditions and wages.

Its detractors are similarly located across the ideological spectrum. Many liberal economists see UBI as prohibitively expensive and inefficient insofar as it directs resources to those who may not need them.

Others on the left see UBI as a dangerous legitimisation of capitalism and an implicit acceptance that not everyone will be provided a job. They also emphasise UBI’s limited ability to address all the social risks that individuals face in a market economy.

Finally, some trade unions, particularly in Bismarckian welfare regimes, oppose what they see as releasing employers of their social responsibility. Trade unions also voice concerns that this will reduce their institutional power which lies in their key role in managing the administration of social insurance benefits.

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The Politics of Temporary Work Deregulation in Europe: Solving the French Puzzle

My latest paper on the politics of temporary work regulation in Western Europe.

(Published online before print July 2)


Temporary work has expanded in the last three decades with adverse implications for inequalities. Because temporary workers are a constituency that is unlikely to impose political costs, governments often choose to reduce temporary work regulations. While most European countries have indeed implemented such reforms, France went in the opposite direction, despite having both rigid labor markets and high unemployment. My argument to solve this puzzle is that where replaceability is high, workers in permanent and temporary contracts have overlapping interests, and governments choose to regulate temporary work to protect permanent workers. In turn, replaceability is higher where permanent workers’ skills are general and wage coordination is low. Logistic regression analysis of the determinants of replaceability— and how this affects governments’ reforms of temporary work regulations—supports my argument. Process tracing of French reforms also confirm that the left has tightened temporary work regulations to compensate for the high replaceability.

New Politics&Society issue

Check out the following two articles
Cooperation in Unlikely Settings: The Rise of Cooperative Labor Relations Among Leading South Korean Firms
Tat Yan Kong
Politics & Society 2012;40 425-452
New Roles for the Trade Unions: Five Lines of Action for Carving Out a New Governance Regime
Peer Hull Kristensen and Robson Sø Rocha
Politics & Society 2012;40 453-479

Varying Fates of Legacy Unions in New Democracies

New paper on unions in new democracies by Caraway in World politics.

Legacy unions—formerly state-backed unions that survived democratic transitions—are one of the most persistent legacies of authoritarian rule. While usually successful in maintaining their preeminent position, legacy unions have in some cases been overtaken by competing unions. Deploying a set of paired comparisons of legacy unions that entered the transition with similar legacies but experienced different fates—Indonesia with South Korea and Poland with Russia—this article examines why some legacy unions continued to dominate (Indonesia and Russia) and others did not (South Korea and Poland). The author identifies four pathways of change: endurance (Indonesia), attrition (South Korea), hegemony (Russia), and rupture (Poland). Several features of the transition context propelled legacy unions down distinct pathways of change—the widespread mobilization of workers outside of state-sponsored unions early in the transition, partisan links, and the structure of union competition.