C-19: Redefining the state of welfare?
- Major crises such as wars and pandemics (such as the 1918-19 Spanish Flu) have often been the occasion for radical reconstruction of the welfare system. It is very likely that the Covid-19 pandemic will also do this.
- This is because it will bring discontent with the existing system to a head and will lay bare its weaknesses, particularly as regards its central element, Universal Credit.
- There will be a major public debate or conversation. Indeed it has already begun.
- In that conversation one idea that is bound to have a lot of support and has a ‘head start’ is that of a Guaranteed Minimum Income and in particular one version of that, a Universal Basic Income.
- There are however strong doubts or objections to that idea, from all parts of the spectrum, and there are several rival ideas.
- The debate cannot be a purely technical one because it touches upon fundamental questions, which have also been raised by the impact of the virus: the place of the home and household; the importance and nature of work; and the role of civil society and voluntary action.