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Could a Basic Income Challenge Gender Equality?

The discussion about basic income as a social benefit has been discussed frequently and worldwide in the last few years. A new article by researchers Alison Koslowski and Ann-Zofie Duvander addresses the question, how a basic income might contribute to a change in gendered behaviour. The authors discuss the idea of a basic income from a perspective of gender equality in the Swedish context, where family policies have already led to high levels of female labour force participation and gender equality.

Their discussion is hypothetical since a basic income has only been suggested and debated in Sweden, but not yet implemented. The authors claim that from a gender point of view, many aspects of the current Swedish welfare state are actually more radically ambitious than the idea of basic income in that it seeks change to the gendered division of both paid and unpaid work.

Koslowski and Duvander say, a basic income would promise ‘real freedom’, separated  from state intervention. However, if the state does not intervene regarding gender equality, gender norms could be determined by other less visible forces, such as the power dynamics within households.

The authors conclude that it is not clear that a basic income payment would challenge gender inequalities. In fact, such a payment would be gender-neutral and so, in theory, fathers and mothers would have the same support. But it may unintentionally reinforce a male breadwinner model even in a country like Sweden. The still existing gender wage gap could likely prevail, and there could be a tendency towards women (in particular mothers) to quit their job in the labour market in favour of living on a basic income.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Writer: 
Isabel Robles-Salgado