Ailsa McKay

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Ailsa McKay
Ailsa McKay.jpg
Born (1963-06-07)7 June 1963
Died 5 March 2014(2014-03-05) (aged 50)
Nationality United Kingdom
Alma mater University of Nottingham
Occupation Professor of economics
Employer Glasgow Caledonian University
Known for Research on gender inequalities and the economics of the welfare state, feminist economics and basic income

Ailsa McKay (7 June 1963 – 5 March 2014)[1] was a Scottish economist, a leading feminist economist and Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University. She was noted for her research on gender inequalities and the economics of the welfare state, for her contributions to feminist economics, and as a leading proponent of the basic income concept. She was an adviser to the United Nations.


She held a 1st class BA Hons from the University of Stirling and a PhD from the University of Nottingham.

Career and work[edit]

McKay was Reader in Gender and Economics until her 2011 appointment as Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University. She also served as Vice Dean of the Glasgow School for Business and Society until 2013.[2] She specialised in gender inequalities and the economics of the welfare state, and served as a consultant to the Scottish Parliament, the Irish Government, Her Majesty's Treasury, and the United Nations Development Programme.[3] Since 2006, she held the visiting chair in gender studies at the Complutense University of Madrid, and was invited as an expert witness to give evidence during the budget process to the Scottish Parliament and the Parliament of Canada. She was a leading authority on gender budget analysis in the United Kingdom.[4] She was also a business commentator for The Herald newspaper. In 2012 she was appointed by the Scottish Government as a member of the Expert Working Group on Welfare and Constitutional Reform.[5]

Her 2005 book The Future of Social Security Policy is according to Almaz Zelleke in Basic Income Studies, a "feminist critique of the neoclassical economic framework in which social security policies are traditionally assessed". The work argues that "this framework is biased in a way that prioritizes income-maintenance aspects of social security policy above all others."[6]

McKay was a founding member of the Scottish Women's Budget Group, a founding member of the European Gender Budget Network, a board member of the Jimmy Reid Foundation and chairperson of the European chapter of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE).[7][8][9]

She was noted as a proponent of Scottish independence and a citizens' basic income.[10] She was also a contributor to the Jimmy Reid Foundation's Common Weal reports, including a report on welfare which was published after her death.[11]

Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics[edit]

Her final academic work is Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, a new anthology in the field of feminist economics that went into print just days before her death, that aims to map the development in the field in the last two decades. In the opening chapter, "Advances in Feminist Economics in Times of Economic Crisis," McKay and her co-editor Margunn Bjørnholt call for a reshaping of the economy, economic theory and the economics profession, taking into account "advances within feminist economics that take as their starting point the socially responsible, sensible and accountable subject in creating an economy and economic theories that fully acknowledge care for each other as well as the planet."[12] The book was described by Winthrop Professor of Economics Alison Preston as "a timely reminder of the politics and economics underpinning what, how and by whom activities and outputs are valued. For those concerned with social justice and sustainable futures, this important and powerful book provides an invaluable and practical insight into issues that are in need of greater visibility." Economics commentator Maria Reinertsen compared the book to Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, arguing that "while Thomas Piketty's bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century barely tests the discipline's boundaries in its focus on the rich, Counting on Marilyn Waring challenges most limits of what economists should care about."[13] According to Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, the book explores "a wide range of issues—including the fundamental meaning of economic growth and activity to consumption, health care, mortality, unpaid household work, mothering, education, nutrition, equality, and sustainability" and reveals "the breadth, depth, and substance that can grow from innovative ideas and critical analysis."[14]

Death and legacy[edit]

McKay died aged 50 on the morning of 5 March 2014, following a year-long battle with cancer.[15]

First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond praised McKay's "astonishing contribution as a feminist economist, both in arguing the case for women into work, and in being the principal author and arguer for many years for the transformation of childcare that will make that possible,"[7] while Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described her as "an inspirational economist and feminist."[10] Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont described her as a "woman of great wisdom".[16]

Pamela Gillies, principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University, wrote: "In her far too early death, Scotland has lost an important force for good, the University has lost a greatly valued, committed and intellectually vibrant colleague and I have lost a dear friend. Professor Ailsa McKay will be missed by so many, but a scholarship founded in her name by the University she loved will inspire future generations of young, similarly feisty scholars to debate and to act for social change."[17] Professor Michael Danson praised her "lifetime inspiring a better kind of economics in Scotland and across the world."[18]

A January 2015 conference in honour of McKay attended by academics and politicians paid tribute to her work. Former First Minister Alex Salmond said that "my regret is this, that I didn't take forward Ailsa's policies in my first ministerial stage."[19][20][21]

She was married to fellow economist Jim Campbell and had two children.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Margunn Bjørnholt and Ailsa McKay (eds.), Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics, with a foreword by Julie A. Nelson, Demeter Press, 2014, ISBN 9781927335277[22]
  • Jobs for the Boys and the Girls: Promoting a Smart Successful Scotland Three Years On (with Jim Campbell, Morag Gillespie and Anne Meikle), Scottish Affairs, 66, 2009
  • Why a citizens' basic income? A question of gender equality or gender bias, Work Employment & Society, 21 (2): 337–348, 2007
  • From Gender Blind to Gender Focused: Re-Evaluating the Scottish Modern Apprenticeship Programme (with Jim Campbell and Emily Thomson), Scottish Affairs, 57, 2006
  • How Modern is the Modern Apprenticeship (with Jim Campbell and Emily Thomson), Local Economy, 20 (3), 2005
  • The Future of Social Security Policy: Women, Work and a Citizen’s Basic Income, Routledge, 2005
  • Rethinking Work and Income Maintenance Policy: Promoting Gender Equality Through a Citizens' Basic Income, Feminist Economics, 7 (1): 97–118, 2001
  • Gender, Family, and Income Maintenance: A Feminist Case for Citizens Basic Income (with Jo Vanevery), Social Politics, 7 (2): 266–284, 2000


  1. ^ Obituaries (22 March 2014). "Ailsa McKay". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 28 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Professor Ailsa McKay". Glasgow School for Business and Society. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Ailsa McKay". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Veitch, Fiona (23 November 2011). "Masterclass studies gender budget analysis". Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Expert Working Group on Welfare and Constitutional Reform,
  6. ^ Almaz Zelleke, "Review of Ailsa McKay, The Future of Social Security Policy: Women, Work and a Citizens’ Basic Income," Basic Income Studies, 1:2, 2006
  7. ^ a b "Alex Salmond leads tribute to economist who battled for gender equality". 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  8. ^ "Tributes for Caley Uni professor Ailsa". 7 March 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2014. 
  9. ^ Alasdair Steven, Obituary: Professor Ailsa McKay, professor of economics, The Scotsman
  10. ^ a b Connor Beaton, Economics professor passes after cancer battle, 6 March 2014
  11. ^ "Ailsa McKay". 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Bjørnholt, Margunn; McKay, Ailsa (2014). "Advances in Feminist Economics in Times of Economic Crisis". In Bjørnholt, Margunn; McKay, Ailsa. Counting on Marilyn Waring: New Advances in Feminist Economics. Demeter Press. ISBN 9781927335277. 
  13. ^ Morgenbladet, 4–10 July 2014, pp. 6–7
  14. ^ Sullivan, T.E. (2014). "Counting on Marilyn Waring: new advances in feminist economics". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries 52 (3). doi:10.5860/CHOICE.185300. 
  15. ^ "Economics professor passes after cancer battle". The Targe. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  16. ^ "Lamont says 'huge issues facing women' deeper than constitutional arrangements". BBC Democracy Live (BBC). 12 March 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  17. ^ "Professor Ailsa McKay". Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  18. ^ Michael Danson, An appreciation of Ailsa McKay, 1963 – 2014,, 10 March 2014
  19. ^ Alex Salmond to pay tribute to late academic Ailsa McKay,
  20. ^ Conference to celebrate the life of internationally renowned Scottish economist,
  21. ^ Commemorative conference marks the life of leading feminist economist, GCU
  22. ^ "Counting on Marilyn Waring". Brunswick Books. Retrieved 8 August 2013.