Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' no. 1 2001, page 57-71.
English resume

Citizen’s income or ‘activation’ (‘workfare’)?

A discussion of different concepts of ‘rights and obligations’ in a historical perspective

Erik Christensen

The article compares the concept of ‘rights and responsibilities’ in the Danish ‘activation’ (‘workfare’) discourse in relation to a citizen’s income discourse. The »activation« policy can be defined as the link between public provision in the form of unemployment benefit and social assistance and the obligation to accept an ‘active’ offer (work or education). A citizen’s income may be defined as a general right of each citizen to receive from the state sufficient support to maintain a modest standard of living, without any general obligation to be looking for work.

Opponents of the citizen’s income have declared it to be unfair, because it represents a breach with certain principles: 1.You must contribute if you want to obtain benefits. To get income transfers you must work. 2. Rights are linked to responsibilities. Citizen’s income is seen as a right without an obligation, a right to income without an obligation to make oneself available for a job on the labour market. Citizen’s income is said to be unfair, whereas ‘activation’ is seen to be fair because rights are combined with obligations.

At some abstract linguistic level, these two principles are obviously right, and so they can be seen as an indication of some basic norms of justice in all societies. But, when it comes to understanding in principal how contemporary society function and to the specific interpretation of these principles in relation to the idea of citizen’s income and the policy of ‘activation’, there is fundamental disagreement.

The argument in the article is that the opponents of citizen’s income turn things upside down. The problem is not that citizen’s income violates these norms. The problem is that contemporary society does not live up to these norms. The solution to this problem might be an unconditional citizen’s income, because such a measure can help to ensure that these norms can function



Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv

(Journal for Working Life)


 

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in Danish frontpage Nyt om arbejdsliv
editor Jørgen Burchardt