The Future of Work and Income

The future of work and income is uncertain. According to some experts, automation will one day make full-time paid employment a thing of the past. In any case, our system of work and income is undergoing dramatic changes, with technology and policy reforms allowing working arrangements to become much more flexible in many sectors, often with the result of more precarious employment. Technological changes also create skills gaps within the labour market, with effects on income distribution.

Various policy responses have been proposed to help us face these changes: a negative income tax, a citizen’s dividend, a universal basic income, a state-sponsored jobs guarantee, and other sorts of radical wage- and income-support policies. And the Covid-19 crisis led to many radical income-support policies being promoted and in some cases brought in as emergency measures. It also revealed how much fierce disagreement exists among the proponents of these various policies.

Understanding these problems and assessing these policy responses requires inquiring into core normative claims about value and fairness and as to the concepts of work, entitlement, welfare, and related notions. The Future of Work and Income project seeks to advance research in these areas, including on specific questions as:

  • What should count as employment?
  • When is somebody entitled to an income, and why?
  • How are purely economic costs and benefits to be weighed against others?’


Publications and Works in Progress

  • Ben Sachs-Cobbe and Alex Douglas, ‘Meritocracy in the Political and Economic Spheres’, under review
  • Ben Sachs-Cobbe, ‘Recent Work on Meritocracy’, forthcoming in Analysis Reviews 
  • Ben Sachs-Cobbe, ‘Problems for the Living Wage Movement’, forthcoming in International Journal of Applied Philosophy
  • Deryn Thomas, Ben Sachs, and Alex Douglas, ‘Why We Can’t Have It All When It Comes to the Future of Work’Justice Everywhere, 3 March 2022
  • Ben Sachs, ‘We Need to Work Out what We Really Want from a Job’, The Times (Scotland Edition), 23 February 2022


  • Undergraduate honours module, “PY4657: Philosophy of Economics”—taught by Alex Douglas and Ben Sachs-Cobbe (taught jointly with EC4427)
  • Undergraduate honours module, “PY4660: Work, Entitlement, and Welfare”—taught by Ben Sachs-Cobbe


  • (2020) Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Networking Grant to support “The Future of Work and Income”: £24,000 awarded to Alex Douglas (P.I.) and Ben Sachs-Cobbe (C.I.)
    • This grant will support the creation of an interdisciplinary network of researchers and a set of events and media contents designed to bring them together and disseminate their research. This will include two workshops, an international conference, a website/database, a series of video interviews, a series of informational videos, and an event at the Edinburgh Science Festival or the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics, and a presentation before a committee of Scottish parliamentarians or civil servants
  • (2020) Scots Philosophical Association Conference Grant, to support “Universal Basic Income and the Meaning of Work) online workshop (see above): £750 awarded to Ben Sachs-Cobbe and Alex Douglas


  • Alex Douglas (St. Andrews philosophy, project co-leader)
  • Ben Sachs-Cobbe (St. Andrews philosophy, project co-leader)
  • Deryn Thomas (St. Andrews/Stirling Postgraduate Philosophy Programme)