Roll out universal basic services
Quality public services allow us all to live better lives, and should be expanded beyond health and education.
All of us, however much or little we earn, need certain things to make our lives possible – and worth living. A roof over our heads, nourishing food, education, people to look after us when we can’t look after ourselves, healthcare when we are ill, transport to take us where we need to go, and (these days) access to digital information and communications as well as water, air and energy. We need money so that we can pay for some of these directly, such as food, but there are some things we could never afford to buy outright unless we were very rich. That’s where Universal Basic Services (UBS) come in. We pool resources through taxation and act together through public institutions to make sure everyone gets what they need.
UBS is a powerful lever for achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These recognise that ‘ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change’. In particular, Goals 3 and 4 aim for good health and wellbeing, and quality education, which is best achieved for all through quality public services. UBS could also help to promote gender equality, decent work, and responsible consumption and production, which are Goals 5, 8 and 12.
UBS offers an alternative to market-based strategies by promoting collective responsibility through public institutions. It does not insist on direct state provision of all services but recognises that there is bound to be a central role for the state in ensuring quality and universal reach in all service areas.
Tags Active state
- Universal Quality Public Services: A policy briefing for trade unions. Public Services International/New Economics Foundation, 2019 (forthcoming)
- Universal Basic Services: Theory and practice. A literature review. UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, 2019
- Social prosperity for the future: A proposal for Universal Basic Services. UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, 2017
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