Universal basic income: a way through the storm?

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Exploited workers – including those labelled by authorities as ‘victims of trafficking’ or as ‘modern slaves’ – typically consent to the work that they do, however abusive or unpleasant, because it represents the best or only option they have of making the money they need. This has been shown in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America.

This begs the question: if we really want to end ‘modern slavery’, and indeed if we’re serious about protecting people from all forms of exploitation, then why not ensure that everyone always has a minimum amount of money in their pocket such that they can say no to bad work?

This isn’t a rhetorical question. Social protection scholars have long made the case that we should ‘just give money to the poor’ if we want to help them, and that doing so is cheaper, more effective and more humane than traditional policies which are costly, complicated and often regressively conditional. Basic income advocates say the same things. A basic income is defined as a regular cash payment delivered unconditionally and individually to all people. Think of it as a small salary just for being human. It won’t make you rich but it should keep you alive in a world where you need money to survive.

In order to explore this question, Beyond Trafficking and Slavery has brought together a series of experts, scholars and activists to reflect on the question: What role could basic income play in the fight against unfree labour?

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The great Indian basic income debate

Basic income has entered mainstream political discussion in India like nowhere else in the world. This is the story of how that happened.

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