Universal Basic Services vs. Universal Basic Income - let's talk






Welcome to our expert series on the post-COVID reset. That is, a reset along a more inclusive and smart 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 podcast is on Universal Basic Services (UBS). It covers three main threads – the core of UBS agenda, the UBI vs UBS debate, and the knowledge-policy nexus on this issue.


The experts today are Anna Coote and Maeve Cohen. Anna is the Principal Fellow at the New Economics Foundation.  Maeve is Project Lead with Social Guarantee Network, to which Anna also belongs. This is a network to advance the agenda of UBS. Their roles and the expertise they bring are key to this discussion.


The host is UNESCO’s Iulia Sevciuc.


Thread 1 untangles the agenda of UBS, going into:

  • Premises – what is the core of UBS and how it should be approached as a framework rather than a stand-alone policy?
  • Targets – why are equity, sustainability and gender so tightly linked to UBS and how would UBS deliver against such objectives?


Thread 2 talks UBS vs UBI, discussing:

  • Framing – why is the debate being framed as UBI vs UBS and how deep does the competition run within the fiscal space and beyond?
  • Now and later – could UBI, as a single policy with immediate turnaround effects, be the solution for the urgency of the current crises and UBS, and as a complex suite of policies with results in the medium- to long-term, be the solution for later?
  • Contexts – could UBS be more fit for countries with a stronger baseline of (state/collectively provided) services, while UBI could be more appropriate for countries without this baseline?
  • Politics of policy-making – what are the chances of UBI “winning” through support from across the political spectrum and UBS facing pushback due to the perception of increased government intervention?


Thread 3 is about knowledge and policy. It speaks to:

  • Knowledge producers – where are the gaps in data and evidence on UBS?
  • Policymakers – what are the key messages on UBS that deserve greater attention?


Have you seen?

Basic income - on data and policy

Move the debate from Universal Basic Income to Universal Basic Services

Basic Income - deciphering the promises and the data


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Anna Coote is Director of The Social Guarantee, a programme to promote universal access to life's essentials. She is also a Principal Fellow, of New Economics Foundation, London, and co-author of 'The Case for Universal Basic Services" (Policy Books, 2020).


Maeve Cohen is Project Lead at the Social Guarantee, and a Non- Executive Director at Positive Money.


Iulia Sevciuc is UNESCO’s lead on inclusive policies and the data-driven policy change. Prior to this appointment, Iulia worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Indonesia and Moldova. 


The facts, ideas and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO or any of its partners and stakeholders and do not commit nor imply any responsibility thereof.


The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this piece do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.