UBI: Good for women (Mandatory Participation on Trial, Part 9)

All or most of the arguments in part 8 apply to women as much as they do to men. Women make up about half of the workforce, and women are disproportionately subject to harassment, low-wages, poor working conditions, and disrespect on the job. The power UBI gives people will be very good for women in the workplace as well as women who are in potentially abusive personal relationships.

One criticism of UBI is that it could reinforce traditional gender roles. When people get a greater ability to provide full-time unpaid care for children, the disabled, or the elderly, women will be more likely to do it, and as they do, they will reinforce the social expectation that it’s women’s work.

Unfortunately, women are doing these things now while they and the people they care for are paying a terrible price for it. Single mothers and their children are the poorest groups of people in the United States, and their position has gotten worse in recent decades. If we want to help women, the first thing we need to do is to stop punishing women who are doing this incredibly valuable work. UBI would instantly reverse the trend toward the feminization of poverty.

If we want to help women challenge traditional gender roles, we should do it in ways that empower women. There must be better ways to challenge gender roles than to condemn millions of caregivers and their dependents to years of poverty.

It is not certain that the overall effect of UBI on gender roles would be to enforce them. It’s true that UBI makes it easier for women to be unpaid caregivers, but it also makes it easier for men. Maybe UBI will make it more affordable for men and women to share care work. Perhaps men and women will use their power to demand the workplace flexibility they need to hold a job and do care work at the same time. Women are sometimes suddenly thrust into a fulltime caregiving role when a man leaves them with children. By making this situation easier to handle, UBI might make it easier for women to avoid getting stuck in it, if getting back to a less traditional role is what she decides is best for her and her family.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Most of the posts in this series were written with the intention of going into my forthcoming book, Universal Basic Income: Essential Knowledge for MIT Press, and many, if not most, of the ideas presented here, did make it into the book, but the publisher suggests I soften the wording and some of the arguments, because as is, in this version of it, “the anti-UBI crowd seems like a bunch of mustache-twirling robber barons,” and she rightly thought that the antagonistic stance would be less convincing than more confrontational one here. So, for the book, I made those changes, but I liked what was left out as well. I thought there must be a place for it. And I decided that place was on my blog. I refer everyone to the book because it has a different approach; because it benefits from peer review, copyediting, and more extensive proofreading; and because it has important ideas that aren’t here. Also, many of the arguments here are developed more fully in other books and articles of mine, most of which you can find on my website: www.widerquist.com.

Karl Widerquist, Karl@Widerquist.com

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