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Basic Income Studies

Ed. by Haagh, Anne-Louise / Howard, Michael

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Why a Basic Income Is Necessary for a Right to Work

Guy Standing
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  • Professor in Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London
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Published Online: 2012-12-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bis-2013-0007


This article makes the proposition that a right to work can only exist if an individual has a prior right to a basic income. It criticizes the perspective that maximizing the number of jobs is a meaningful way of advancing the right to work, since activity in subordinated labour is scarcely consistent with a freedom-enhancing right to work. In recalling the historical right to practise an occupation, it rejects the notion of a “job guarantee”, as neither feasible nor desirable in a free society or as part of a progressive vision of a Good Society.

Keywords: basic income; job guarantee; economic security


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About the article

Published Online: 2012-12-31

This article draws in part on G. Standing, Work after Globalization: Building Occupational Citizenship (Cheltenham and New York, Edward Elgar, 2009).

In 2009, a Gallup poll found that only 13% of German workers felt any attachment to their job.

For instance, it has been guesstimated that about one-third of the adult population in a country such as Canada is subject to “episodic disability”, as distinct from chronic or permanent disability. It is hard to imagine a reliable method of distinguishing between those who should be “expected” to be in a job and those not.

Phil Harvey claims that basic income advocates have not addressed the job guarantee arguments. Along with others, I have repeatedly done so (see, e.g., Standing, 1986, 2002, 2005); he has not engaged with arguments proposed as refutations of his points. In his latest paper, he makes no reference to that literature, which has been central since we established BIEN in 1986.

Citation Information: Basic Income Studies, ISSN (Online) 1932-0183, ISSN (Print) 2194-6094, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/bis-2013-0007.

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