It’s Payback Time for Women

The Dutch city of Utrecht. (photo: Michael Kooren/Reuters)
The Dutch city of Utrecht. (photo: Michael Kooren/Reuters)


Judith Shulevitz | New York Times | January 11, 2015

country that gives every citizen enough cash to live on whether she needs it or not: It’s got to be either a fool’s paradise or a profligate Northern European nation. And lo, in November, the Finnish government proposed paying every adult 800 euros or about $870 a month. Fits of this seemingly irrational generosity, called a universal basic income or U.B.I., are becoming surprisingly common. The Swiss will vote in a referendum on basic income this year. The Dutch city of Utrecht will soon start a basic-income pilot program. Canada’s ruling Liberal Party recently adopted a resolution calling for a similar experiment.

Still, it couldn’t happen here. Or could it? Over the past few years, a case for the U.B.I. has emerged that could make it appealing not just to the poor, who don’t vote in great numbers, but to women, who do.

The feminist argument for a U.B.I. is that it’s a way to reimburse mothers and other caregivers for the heavy lifting they now do free of charge. Roughly one-fifth of Americans have children 18 or under. Many also attend to ill or elderly relatives. They perform these labors out of love or a sense of duty, but still, at some point during the diaper-changing or bedpan cleaning, they have to wonder why their efforts aren’t seen as “work.” They may even ask why they have to pay for the privilege of doing it, by cutting back on their hours or quitting jobs to stay home.

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