When it comes to welfare, there is a deep fault line separating, on the one hand, those in favor of universal mechanisms such as the unconditional basic income (UBI) and, on the other hand, those supporting “workfare”. The first one is understood as an income granted to each individual, without means test or work requirement. The second one refers to a host of conditional measures in order to access any benefits.
Back in 1996 Professor Anthony Atkinson, an economist with a distinguished track record of research into poverty and social exclusion, put forward a proposal for a Participation Income (PI), as a compromise between the aspirations to an unconditional basic income and the political acceptability of the workfare model, which has increasingly become the dominant approach. Like UBI, PI grants all individuals a right to a secure income, but, unlike UBI, it requires that recipients satisfy a participation requirement as a condition of support.
Qualifying forms of participation would be socially useful activities, from caring for an elderly relative to volunteering in a neighborhood project, engaging in vocational training, or studying for an educational qualification.