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Basic income – deciphering the promises and the data


Basic income – deciphering the promises and the data

Welcome to our expert series on the post-COVID reset. That is, a reset along a more inclusive path. The series introduces listeners to leading thinkers as they debate concrete policy options for such a recovery and take stock of the data that could (and should) inform these policy shifts. 
This is a 3-part podcast concerned with the Universal Basic Income (UBI). We discuss its potential to cushion the immediate effects of COVID and to put countries on an inclusive track in the longer run.
Our expert is Ioana Marinescu, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty research fellow at the US National Bureau of Economic Research. Her expertise is in universal basic income, unemployment insurance, and the politics of carbon tax, all of which are key to this debate. 


The host is John Crowley, UNESCO's Chief of Research, Policy and Foresight.

Together we cover:

  • UBI – does it actually hold the promise of greater equity in this recovery and what is the broader policy mix we need to be thinking about;
  • Financing UBI – why should carbon tax be entertained as a possibility and what are the other solutions; and
  • Knowledge and data – what is that we know and what are we missing on UBI?  

Part 1: Universal Basic Income and the bigger puzzle
The UBI was as a fringe policy idea for some time. COVID-19 changed that. Even before COVID-19, automation and the replacement of jobs due to it were pushing many towards seriously considering UBI as a way to distribute risks and benefits of such a transition in a fairer way.
It is through this angle of inclusive and equitable post-COVID recovery that we discuss UBI. Part 1 looks into:

  • UBI’s promises of greater equity – what stands behind them and could UBI deliver against such claims in the real post-COVID world; and
  • Other social policy measures that should be entertained as part of both the immediate crisis response and the plans for a more inclusive recovery in the longer run.

 | ► PLAY PART 1: Universal Basic Income and the bigger puzzle


Part 2: Financing UBI – carbon tax and beyond
There is no talk of UBI without delving into the matters of financing and fiscal load. Part 2 gives and overview of various possibilities and goes deeper into:

  • Carbon tax and its feasibility as a solution for green basic income;
  • Countries where carbon tax for UBI might work; and
  • Other innovative mechanisms – even if emerging or only brainstormed at this point  – that could be entertained as a possibility for financing the UBI.


| ► PLAY PART 2: Financing UBI - carbon tax and beyond 


Part 3: Knowledge on UBI  
The concern of the UNESCO Inclusive Policy Lab is connecting knowledge and data to policy. This nexus between what we know and how that informs decisions and policy shifts is critical in emerging, and often polarized, debates on UBI. Part 3 takes stock of the data coming from a number of countries that engaged with UBI, both before COVID and as part of this crisis response, and discusses:

  • How solid that data are and how much the existing evaluations actually tell us about the effectiveness and the impacts of the UBI;
  • Key knowledge gaps on UBI that need deeper digging on the part of researchers; and
  • Findings that are particularly critical and deserve close attention on the part of policy makers in the debates on UBI.


| ► PLAY PART 3: Knowledge on UBI

Have you seen?  

   Close social protection gaps to reset equitably after COVID-19 
   Universal Basic Income and beyond - what are our options for recovery
   Gender inequality in times of COVID-19 – give women cash

Ioana Marinescu is Assistant Professor in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and faculty research fellow at the US National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Her research focuses on labor markets, including online job search, competition in the labor market, universal basic income, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, and employment contracts.


The interviewee is responsible for the facts cited in the podcast and the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.