Money, Vouchers, Public Infrastructures? : A Framework for Sustainable Welfare Benefits

While the social consequences of environmental policies are extensively evaluated in sustainability research, few studies exist on the ecological impact of social benefits and the welfare state. Sustainable welfare is a novel research field that seeks to close this knowledge gap and develop integrated eco-social policies. Within this, researchers are starting to ask how citizen’s needs can be guaranteed in an environmentally sustainable way and how their welfare benefits should be delivered. Should citizens receive a universal basic income, be given vouchers for ecologically beneficial or socially needed goods and services, or be provided with access to socio-ecological infrastructures and services? This article develops a framework for sustainable welfare benefits with six criteria of sustainable welfare and nine different types of welfare benefits that belong to the domains of universal basic income (UBI), universal basic services (UBS), and universal basic vouchers (UBV). Using this framework, existing policy proposals are categorized and evaluated. The advantages and disadvantages of the different types of welfare benefits are discussed and new application areas highlighted. The analysis shows that a successful policy will likely include all forms of welfare benefits, with certain types being more adequate for certain fields and societal circumstances. The framework for sustainable welfare benefits can serve as a starting point for further research on integrated policy design and inform policymakers on the selection of eco-social policies.


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