POL02 - Putting basic income on the international policy agenda

Submitting Institution

University of York

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Economics: Applied Economics, Econometrics
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

Louise Haagh has played a major role in putting alternative welfare and employment policy options on the mainstream agenda. Haagh's comparative empirical research on basic income (BI) provides support for an approach to welfare that gives citizens unconditional, universal economic entitlements and multiple opportunities, through education, work, and social care, to acquire the economic stability needed to help themselves. Haagh has promoted this approach through a portfolio of international engagement with policy makers, international organisations and NGOs: most notably, the Council of Europe's `Rights of People Experiencing Poverty' project and its major guide Living in Dignity in the 21st Century: Poverty, Human Rights and Democracy; and her work with the Government of Canada's National Council for Welfare.

Underpinning research

Haagh's research engages with contemporary global debates about welfare and anti-poverty strategies. It contributes significantly to our understanding of the impact of labour and welfare policy interventions (income assistance, employment policy and labour market regulation) on the wellbeing and development of individual citizens and societies. Haagh's empirical work underpins the claim that poverty-reduction policies work best when they help individual citizens to help themselves. Her research supports the case for a universal BI, that is, an unconditional right of citizens to a regular income supported by a host of progressive public finance measures to facilitate the realisation of the individual citizen as a responsible, self-reliant socio-economic agent.

The dominant global policy trend towards more targeted, means-tested and behaviour-controlled provision for the poorest groups is founded on empirical claims that the poor lack incentives to work if granted unconditional income support. In several linked projects Haagh has shown that these claims are unreliable: they depend upon ignoring other salient factors (e.g. differences between marginal and non-marginal groups, the impact of conditionality and stability of income support, the availability of other sources of opportunity/economic security such as continuing education) and so should not ground policy decisions. Haagh's research shows that the relationship between economic security and work motivation is mediated by the availability of different forms of income support and the opportunities to access it. These findings rest on a series of empirical surveys conducted by Haagh in Chile (1992-95), South Korea (1998-2002), Brazil (2002-06) and Barbados (2008), funded variously by the British Academy, Leverhulme Trust and Nuffield Foundation.

Since 2007, Haagh has focused on welfare reforms in OECD countries undergoing fiscal austerity. She has examined the systemic background for the differential performance of mature capitalist states. Her findings show that horizontal models of capitalism that promote a comprehensive and diversified framework of economic security (prevalent in the Nordic countries) perform better than hierarchical models (prevalent in Anglo-Saxon countries and Latin America) at delivering stable economic incentives. The combination of progressive taxes and the promotion of universal entitlements and low inequality is shown to be most successful in delivering the political legitimacy and financial capability necessary for an effective and flexible economic and welfare system.

Building on these insights, Haagh argues for policies that meet basic subsistence needs and facilitate individual capacity to acquire economic stability. Haagh's research refutes the traditional arguments for BI that regard it as a partial replacement for comprehensive social security or/and as justifying the relatively high levels of income inequality generated in the less-regulated capitalist states. Instead, she argues that BI is most effective — and in the long run more politically viable — when part of a multifaceted system of policy intervention that promotes the individual as an independent economic actor while rejecting individualism in favour of structures which provide fair equality of opportunity for all.

Haagh has been at the University of York since 2001 as a Lecturer and then a Reader.

References to the research

Haagh, L. (2012) `Democracy, Public Finance, and Property Rights in Economic Stability: How More Horizontal Capitalism Upscales Freedom for All' in Polity, (doi:10.1057/pol.2012.16). Peer reviewed journal — impact factor 0.422 (2012). Submitted in REF2.


Haagh, L. (2011a) 'Working Life, Well-Being and Welfare Reform: Motivation and Institutions Revisited', World Development, 39(3): 450-473 (doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2010.08.014). Peer reviewed journal — impact factor 1.527 (2012). Submitted in REF2.


Haagh, L. (2011b), 'Basic Income, Social Democracy and Control over Time', Policy & Politics, 39(1): 43-66. (doi: 10.1332/030557311X546316). Peer reviewed journal — impact factor 0.697 (2011). Submitted in REF2.


Haagh, L. (2006) 'Equality and Income Security in Market Economies: What's Wrong with Insurance?'' in Social Policy and Administration, 40(4): 385-424. (10.1111/j.1467-9515.2006.00496.x). Peer reviewed journal — impact factor 0.976 (2012).


Haagh, L. (2002) Citizenship, Labour Markets and Democratization — Chile and the Modern Sequence, Basingstoke, Palgrave. (Available on request).


Details of the impact

Haagh's BI research has had a significant impact on national governments, international organizations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Specifically, her work has shaped the policy guidance and practice of Europe's leading human rights organisation, the Council of Europe (CoE). Further, her advisory work for the Canadian National Council for Welfare helped shape the policy debate on welfare reform in Canada. Haagh's involvement in these policy forums flows in part from her membership of the executive committee of the Basic Income Earth Network, a global NGO advocating the promotion of BI. The specific impacts outlined here form part of a wider portfolio of global engagement, which additionally includes advising the Brazilian government on income security, welfare and labour market policy, and working on behalf of the World Bank with the Organisation of American States on universal social guarantees.

1) Haagh was engaged in a key expert role by the CoE Social Research, Cohesion and Early Warning Division in 2010-13. The CoE has 47 member states and seeks to develop European- wide democratic principles based on the European Convention on Human Rights and related texts protecting individual rights. Haagh was centrally involved in the CoE's `Human Rights of People Experiencing Poverty' project, launched in 2010 and jointly funded by the European Commission. The aim of this project was to fight poverty, reduce inequality and improve human rights in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. This involved devising a set of local charters of social responsibility with five pilot European cities (Charleroi, Covilha, Mulhouse, Salaspila, Timisoara) and producing a major policy guide, Living in Dignity in the 21st Century. The guide was published in 2013 and launched jointly by the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and the Secretary-General of the CoE at an international conference held in Strasbourg (http://rights-poverty.eu/conference/). Haagh was selected as one of a group of six academic experts and four NGO representatives responsible for producing concrete proposals for the policy guide and driving the process of forming the local social charters through a series of meetings, conferences and policy papers. Haagh's specific contribution to the policy guide followed directly from her research. In particular, the final policy recommendations are based on six pillars, two of which — equal access to financial resources and the re-establishment of progressive public finance — come directly from Haagh's research. First, one of the guide's key policy proposals is that states should seriously consider introducing a universal BI as a central tool in the fight against poverty and insecurity: the specific treatment of BI in the report (Council of Europe 2013, pp.197-198) is based on, and explicitly references, Haagh's work (Haagh 2011b). Second, the guide advocates that BI (among other policies) should be implemented within a progressive system of public finance and a reworked conceptualisation of the commons. The elaboration of this idea (Council of Europe 2013, pp.133-154) is, again, based on Haagh's work with the concept of `progressive public finance' as delineated in Haagh (2012). According to the Head of the Social Cohesion Research and Early Warning Directorate at the CoE, Haagh's `ideas of progressive public finance, basic income as a source of property rights in stability, and education and work as areas of the commons, have been influential in shaping the debates and policy discourse ...and in informing the content of the Council's work and the guide'.

2) Haagh was commissioned by the National Council for Welfare (NCW), an advisory group on social development established by statute that reported directly to the Canadian federal Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development, to conduct a seminar on BI for its policy advisors in 2010. This seminar contributed to the process of planning and writing the NCW report, The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty, published in Autumn 2011. According to NCW Executive Director, Haagh played a key role in persuading NCW members of the importance of BI. The Executive Director also credits Haagh with influencing NCW Chairperson John Rook and NCW staff on the merits of BI and how it might operate in the Canadian context. The impact claimed here is that Haagh made a major contribution to shaping the final report and thence the public debate in Canada. To quote the NCW Executive Director once more, `what was most encouraging for the future of basic income was that a group of people, most of whom were unaware or even hostile to the idea, came around dramatically to see its merits (and challenges)'. The NCW report itself stimulated active debate in Canada about poverty in general, and has seen prominent Conservative politicians (e.g. Senator Segal) and influential commentators (e.g. Andrew Coyne) express strong support for both the NCW report in general its focus on basic income in particular.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Council of Europe (2013) Living in Dignity in the 21st Century, Strasbourg. (ISBN 978-92-871-7567-0). Executive summary: http://rights-poverty.eu/guide/

Council of Europe, letters inviting Haagh to act for the Council of Europe as an expert.

Head of Social Cohesion, Research and Early-warning Division, Directorate of Human Rights and Antidiscrimination, Council of Europe. Testimony, 5 June 2012.

Canadian Council of Welfare, The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty, Ottawa: Government of Canada Publications, http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/cnb-ncw/HS54-2-2011-eng.pdf

Correspondence, Executive Director, National Council of Welfare, Canada.

Hugh Segal, `Why Guaranteeing the Poor an Income Will Save Us All in the End',

Andrew Coyne, `A Minimum Income, Not Wage, is a Fairer Way to Distribute Wealth',